Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: The Bristol Verdict, Temper Temper And Silly Season Summary

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
Summer Bedgood “(Wednesdays / Tweet & Greet-Frontstretch Newsletter & Fridays / Four Burning Questions)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/32575/
Phil Allaway “(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/
Mike Neff “(Mondays / Full Throttle / Short Track Coordinator)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744/
Kevin Rutherford (Wednesdays / Kevin’s Corner)

*After Bristol Motor Speedway made changes to the track over the summer, the track promoted racing closer to what fans saw prior to 2007. But did the track live up to the hype?*

Summer: Oh yeah. The helmet throw was enough for that to be a reality.
Kevin: I think it did. I wasn’t able to look away for both the Cup and Nationwide races, and in that regard I think the races were at least successful.
Mike N.: Closer to racing before the repave? No. Closer to before they put concrete down? Yes. It was different than we’ve seen there in the last 20 years. Prior to the concrete, they used to diamond the corners kind of like they did Saturday night. It was great racing.
Beth: Yes and no. People were hyping it as the “old Bristol” would be back… and that’s never going to happen. But what did happen was some great short track racing and the tempers flaring that we’re used to from Bristol.
Phil: They laid that hype on big-time. It couldn’t live up to that. What we ultimately got was something in between the Spring race and “Old Bristol.” Frankly, its not all that bad, but still very tough to pass. The shaving probably didn’t really work like Bruton wanted it to, though.
Amy: To be honest, I liked the spring race better. Sure, there was beating and banging Saturday night, but most of it was too early and totally unnecessary. If you like the wrecking, I’m sure it was a great race.
Beth: It’s never too early to beat and bang. That’s the kind of passion I’m looking for from the series.
Mike N.: Honestly, if you like wrecking, I didn’t think there was enough. But Greg Biffle had a very valid point. When you’re running at the wall, you can’t bump and run someone because there is nowhere for them to go.
Summer: I don’t really think it was the wrecking. I think the wrecking was a result of the hard racing. _That’s_ what many people liked.
Amy: The best moves all night were when Hamlin was battling Edwards for the lead toward the end… both used contact the way it should be used.
Mike N.: The racing between Vickers and Edwards was great, too.
Amy: However, as a whole way too many people got taken out because someone was driving stupid for that point in the race. There’s a difference between hard racing and driving over your head… a lot of guys were driving over their heads.
Summer: Yeah, but it’s not so tough to pass that it was impossible. I feel like there is a perfect amount of difficulty in this race now.
Mike N.: I would have liked to see just a little more bite on the bottom.
Beth: And maybe that will come in time, Mike.
Mike N.: When a car is leading by a full car length in the center of the corner and behind by the time they get to the middle of the corner, it is a little too unbalanced. It was good, but the inside needed to be just a little better.
Amy: There were a few guys who needed to use their brains. Regan Smith was a weapon out there. So was David Ragan.
Beth: Just because people wreck doesn’t automatically make it a bad race. After all, sometimes that’s just part of racing.
Summer: I agree, Beth. Like I said, I felt like the wrecking was just a result of the good racing. It happens that way. That’s not to say there weren’t some weapons out there, but that’s no different than any other track. The difference is, there is usually more room.
Amy: It _is_ a part of racing, but I don’t find guys getting a tire cut down because of a move that was completely unnecessary to fit that definition.
Phil: You mean the Newman-Montoya mess? Tony Gibson was convinced the tire was going down before the contact. Maybe something else caused that cut down.
Mike N.: The tire was going down. I don’t know why, but it was.
Amy: Actually, Phil, the worst culprit in the tire deal was Regan Smith; he did it twice. First, he took Casey Mears out of the best finish in his team’s career and then he stuffed Danica.
Mike N.: I think the problem of people driving without their heads was more of a result of people being frustrated by the lack of ability to go forward without risking going further backward.
Beth: Speaking of Casey Mears…I was incredibly impressed with him early on.
Amy: Me too, Beth. He really got screwed this weekend between NASCAR not letting practice speed qualifying count toward the Shootout and then getting dumped by Smith.
Phil: I couldn’t figure out that thing with Mears. That was weird.
Summer: I thought the Mears success had a lot to do with that “not being able to pass” thing.
Mike N.: Mears didn’t get taken out of his best finish. He was dropping like a stone after about 20 laps.
Phil: Once they adjusted on Mears’ car, he was holding his own in the top 15. Then, he got put in the wall. Still managed 21st, but he could have been better than that.
Kevin: Mears was only up there as long as he was because of the high line. Though I still think he could’ve managed a top 15 if he didn’t have issues.
Mike N.: That wasn’t by his ability. That was by pit strategy. He was terrible by lap 50.
Beth: He could’ve easily been top 15, if not top 10, Mike.
Summer: Oh I don’t think top 10 was going to happen. Maybe top 15. Again, though, his ability to maintain track position because of that middle groove helped.
Beth: One thing that really stood out for me with this race was the variety of leaders we saw.
Summer: Well, I think some of that was the lineup. You had some fast cars starting further back.
Kevin: It was still really cool to see people like the No. 13 team starting up front, though regardless of how they got it. Don’t see that too often with smaller teams.
Phil: A lot of the variety was thanks to pit strategy. That’s how we got 22 lead changes.
Mike N.: In the end, however, the cream of the crop rose to the top. Other than Kasey Kahne, who was badass before he got his front end damage.
Beth: Yeah, Mike. It would have been great to see Kahne battle Hamlin in the closing laps.
Amy: I really enjoyed the last couple of restarts; the racing between Vickers and Edwards and then Edwards and Hamlin was textbook…hard racing with enough skill not to wreck each other. Great stuff. But there was way too much bad driving early on.
Mike N.: I honestly thought it was a really good race. It wasn’t epic, but it didn’t suck either. I thought it was a nice blend of old Bristol and new. I was surprised how early in the race they were all of the way against the wall though.
Summer: I think it was one of the better races of the season. Not Watkins Glen material, mind you, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Amy: I enjoyed the spring race more…side by side racing through the field all day long without the gratuitous wrecks.
Mike N.: One thing I was still disappointed about, which hasn’t changed no matter what the track this year, was that new tires didn’t make much difference at all. Cars that took tires weren’t able to pass many cars after they came out. I miss when a guy would put on new tires at Bristol, come out 25th and carve through the field until his tires gave up 50 laps later.
Summer: Well yeah, and people are still getting on Goodyear about making a better tire.
Amy: I like beating and banging for position if it’s done right, without someone ending up in the wall. I think that’s why I like Martinsville better; there’s more of that there.
Summer: Unfortunately to them, “better tire” translates into “boulder.”
Phil: When did that happen since they concreted Bristol, Mike?
Summer: It doesn’t happen at all anywhere. But I think that’s the point.
Amy: See, tires should be the opposite of boulder and wear out before the end of a fuel run. THAT would make better racing.
Kevin: Agreed, Amy. That would be great.
Mike N.: I won’t say their tire isn’t great. It has great grip for its entire life. What I would like to see if a tire that goes from great to crap in fewer laps than a fuel run if you push it too hard.
Summer: I agree with you 100%.
Beth: All in all, the repave came out as a success…so far. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cup and Truck races… even though Timothy Peters flat stomped the field on Wednesday.
Amy: Overall, I give the race a solid C. Average; would have been better with about half the cautions.
Kevin: I think this was all in all a success for Bristol. Not the best races of the year in any series, but up there. I think they’ve appeased the general population. So, good for them.
Mike N.: I’d give this race a B. I’d give the tire a D.

*After Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth got together at Bristol, Stewart vowed to “Run over him every chance I get,” and Kenseth parried by saying he’d race Stewart in the same manner that Stewart races him…should fans expect the conflict to continue at Atlanta and beyond, and will it affect the Chase?*

Mike N.: Nope.
Summer: I doubt it turns into anything further. Stewart was just blowing off steam. Plus, those guys are champions for a reason.
Mike N.: Tony will dump Matt at some point but it won’t happen as long as both of them are in title contention.
Beth: Tempers will cool and it’ll blow over, but it sure made for a good show.
Kevin: I doubt anything will _actually_ happen. Tempers will fizzle out by Atlanta.
Mike N.: Now if it comes down to the end of the year, they’re both out of it and he gets the chance, sure Stewart will dump him.
Beth: Agreed 100%, Mike.
Amy: Honestly, if they want to take each other out and can do it without ruining anyone else’s day… have at it. It’s stupid, but if they want to ruin their own chances, go for it.
Phil: Stewart’s not an idiot. If he were to actually do something this week, it would be considered pre-meditated. Now, it might be a little more likely at Richmond, but I don’t think any shenanigans go down for the rest of the season.
Amy: I don’t think they will either. Too much at stake. Still, Atlanta is sure trying to cash in on it.
Phil: Atlanta’s too fast for that stupidity.
Beth: Who can blame them, Amy? It’s all about putting butts in the seats even if nothing else comes from it.
Phil: Atlanta’s never been the best at doing that, so they’re trying everything they can.
Kevin: It might happen at Richmond if both are all but assured a Chase berth.
Summer: If _anything_ happens, it will be before the Chase starts so it won’t affect Stewart’s standing.
Mike N.: If they’re both 6th or worse in points at Phoenix, I bet Tony will send the message. The problem is, there isn’t a message to send. They were just racing.
Kevin: Yeah, I can agree with that, Mike. It definitely brought added drama into the race, but it was sorta unnecessary. At least, Stewart’s rage afterward.
Summer: Yeah well you know how drivers are Mike. It’s always “just racing” until it’s _them_ on the other side of it.
Mike N.: Yeah Summer, that happens sometimes. Although Stewart is usually pretty fair about that. Remember when Vickers took him out at Sonoma? He wasn’t pissed. I think there was a little more to this one.
Summer: I kept hearing commentators and others talking about a history between the two. What am I forgetting?
Phil: There’s the time Kenseth gave him a bump-and-run to win his first Busch race at Rockingham, but that was in 1998.
Mike N.: They got together a little at Sonoma this year.
Amy: I really, really hope they’re both professional enough not to see it as an opportunity to ruin the other’s title chances. I think they are. Now, if they should tangle again by chance…there could be sparks. But I don’t think either will go out of their way to create a situation.
Summer: Wait… Rockingham is past history? They had an issue 14 years ago and actually raced each other in Sonoma and it’s “history”? Are we that desperate for a rivalry ?
Mike N.: And there was some talk about issues at Indy.
Summer: People like to make something out of nothing.
Phil: At best, it’s a stretch.
Kevin: Well, we don’t necessarily know the relations off the track. Maybe it’s something there.
Mike N.: They’ve been racing together for almost 15 years. There are going to be issues that none of us are even aware of. I have no idea but I doubt Stewart and Kenseth have much of any relationship off of the track. I may be wrong but I just don’t picture them hanging out.
Amy: I will admit that the helmet throw was entertaining. Note to drivers…if you’re going to display less-than-grown-up sportsmanship, at least throwing your helmet is amusing.
Beth: Agreed, Amy. And we’ve seen it twice in the last month or so (granted one was in the Truck Series).
Mike N.: Trust me. If you want to get pissy with someone after that much racing, you can.
Beth: Stewart’s aim was pretty dang good.
Mike N.: Oh yeah, as helmet throws go, it was top three all-time.
Summer: And that automatically means they hate each other? Not being friends does not equal being an enemy.
Beth: Definitely not, Summer, but it makes it easier for them to get upset with each other on track and stay upset.
Phil: Not necessarily. They might just be indifferent.
Mike N.: I don’t know Summer. I just know that Stewart was really pissed off over something that truly looked like a racing deal. So there has to be some reason behind it.
Phil: They’ll both be answering a bunch of questions about it on Friday, though.
Summer: I think Stewart had just had a frustrating night up to that point and it got the best of him. Yes, I know that the wreck happened while he was leading, but he had to come back from a lap down to do that.
Mike N.: Actually, Stewart started off like Fido’s rear end and had turned it into a potential strong finish at that point.
Amy: Did anyone else think the crash looked deliberate on Stewart’s part?
Summer: I thought he caused it, yes. He got pissy with Kenseth for doing the slide job and turned down on him.
Amy: It sure looked to me like he cut a left turn into Kenseth.
Summer: That’s what I saw.
Beth: Honestly, I’d have to watch it again. I was too amused by the helmet throw and didn’t focus as much on the replays.
Mike N.: It looked to me like they bounced off each other and then Kenseth’s right rear got into Stewart’s left rear and they got hung up with each other.
Amy: I will say, it takes a set to deliberately wreck someone and then toss the helmet at him…
Summer: I don’t know if Stewart meant to _wreck_ Kenseth as much as he meant to send a message. I feel like if he had genuinely wanted to wreck Kenseth without hurting himself, he could have.
Amy: I think people are hyping a rivalry to a degree it won’t happen in the Chase.
Summer: I think so too. It won’t happen for awhile, if ever.
Amy: I really hope they won’t do anything that hurts another driver’s chances if they do get touchy
Phil: I don’t think they’re “getting touchy” anytime soon.
Kevin: I truly believe they’ll dispel any rivalry at Atlanta, and then we won’t hear about it again after that. Or at least until next year, if that.
Mike N.: Oh we’ll hear about it again, but like I said, if either of them has a title shot, they won’t do anything. If they’re out of it at Phoenix, then they might get stupid. It took Kenseth out last year.
Beth: Odds are they’ll be over it and won’t seek out the other to cause a problem, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do less giving when it comes to racing near each other.
Mike N.: Now what we all can hope for is a Kenseth/Stewart race to the finish line at Richmond. That could turn into a Craven/Busch moment.

*Silly Season is still underway, though it has been relatively quiet since Matt Kenseth announced he’ll be leaving Roush Fenway Racing. Still, there are several drivers who remain unsigned for 2013…who is most deserving of a top ride, and who will have one when all is said and done?*

Mike N.: Is there a top ride available?
Summer: I was gonna say… what’s out there?
Amy: Provided that Stewart-Haas locks down Ryan Newman, you have to look at Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers.
Kevin: I will say before any other driver that Brian Vickers has shown he deserves _something_ in 2013. I don’t know what, if anything, is available, but I think he deserves something.
Amy: The No. 22, for one.
Mike N.: I think Sam Hornish has done enough to stay in the No. 22.
Summer: I think MWR would do well to have Vickers full-time.
Amy: If the 39 does become open, that throws another wrench in.
Phil: Vickers has done very well in his limited seat-time (Watkins Glen excluded, of course.)
Phil: If Newman’s No. 39 becomes open, then it probably disappears, or goes to Patrick.
Amy: And MWR is tied up in Mark Martin for another year in the No. 55.
Mike N.: I have no idea what the arrangement is at MWR but Vickers would be smart to stick to his part time role until Mark Martin quits or is forced to retire by some health code violation or something.
Phil: Saturday probably really hurt Hornish.
Summer: I know he’s been in there under trying circumstances, but let’s remember he had about the same results when he was in the Cup Series a few years ago.
Amy: I still think Hornish _has_ earned the No. 22, but Penske could also have something else brewing for him. Personally, I’d take Vickers over Joey Logano, but that’s me.
Kevin: I think the way Hornish has run in the 22 is enough for him to be considered at least, but not to have gained it completely just yet. He’d need better finishes first to pull that off.
Amy: I think the way he’s running in Nationwide has earned it.
Summer: Hornish needs to stay in the Nationwide Series. He’s good there. He’s not even mediocre in Cup.
Beth: I would too, Amy. Joey Logano really hasn’t lived up to the hype that followed him to Cup.
Mike N.: I’m pretty sure Joey Logano is still one of the five youngest drivers in Cup. Just because he got thrown in there before he wanted to be shouldn’t be held against him. He’s run better the last two years and looked like he was headed for win #2 on Saturday at the start of the race.
Amy: Hornish is second in NNS points and could win the championship. What else would he have to do?
Mike N.: Let’s think about this for a second. Logano has 6 Nationwide wins this season and Hornish has… 0.
Beth: Oh I don’t know… win a race.
Summer: Yeah, finding his way to Victory Lane would change my mind too.
Amy: My grandmother could win NNS races in a JGR Nationwide car…
Beth: Or finish inside the top 10 in the Cup ride he’s been handed for the last eight weeks.
Summer: And I don’t mean once. I mean contending for wins on a consistent basis. That too.
Amy: Hornish hasn’t done worse in the 22 than Allmendinger did… maybe it’s not the driver.
Beth: Allmendinger also faced quite a few bad luck races…what’s Hornish’s excuse?
Mike N.: Which all the more proves just how good Kurt Busch really is.
Phil: Hornish has done well in a couple of races so far. He’s doing better overall than he did in the No. 77.
Summer: Hornish needs to do better in Nationwide before he moves to Cup. Regardless of his standing, he isn’t near as competitive as Stenhouse and Sadler are every week.
Mike N.: I do think Vickers deserves a shot in something but don’t forget, he didn’t set the world on fire in Hendrick equipment.
Kevin: If Hornish were to end up in Cup for Penske in 2013, I’d rather see it in a third team rather than the 22.
Phil: Regardless, Logano has done more than enough to stay in Cup. If he can get the #22 ride, go for it.
Summer: I don’t feel like that’s true for Logano, but I do think Penske would be a good fit for him. The thing is, I feel like Logano is too good for the Nationwide Series.
Phil: Logano’s been too good for Nationwide for the last couple of years.
Mike N.: I hope Logano can stay at JGR, but it sounds like they don’t want to keep him in Cup. I think he’s done well enough to stay in a Cup ride.
Kevin: It’s definitely a predicament because while I don’t necessarily believe Logano is the best for the job in many respects in Cup, sending him to Nationwide full-time for JGR would be ridiculous, at least for all the other teams.
Mike N.: What the hell is he going to develop? He’s won _six_ times in NNS this year.
Amy: Cup skills?
Summer: Yeah, I don’t think sending him back to the Nationwide Series will do him any good. He’s already mastered that series.
Phil: I’d argue that this past weekend was one of Logano’s best ever in a Cup car. Led both races handily. Regardless of all the work that’s been done to the joint, it’s still quite the test of driver skills.
Amy: He’s lacking somewhere, because he’s driving for a multi-championship team and not getting it done
Mike N.: You piss and moan when Cup guys run with them. What is he going to learn?
Mike N.: And while they are a multiple championship team, Busch and Hamlin haven’t won a championship with the equipment either.
Amy: I’d like to see him run NNS for a different team, maybe Turner or RPM…then we can really see what he’s capable of.
Summer: We already know what he’s capable of. Just because he goes to a lesser team and starts winning less doesn’t mean he’s a bad driver. It means he’s in inferior equipment.
Beth: I don’t know that the right move for him is to go back to Nationwide…but maybe he needs the shakeup of another team to spark something for him.
Summer: That’s what I think. Maybe he needs new surroundings.
Mike N.: That is ridiculous and if he does it I think he’s a moron.
Amy: The contract on the table is pending sponsorship, Mike. If that’s not there, he may not have a choice.
Phil: There’s also the issue of if he goes back to Nationwide, he might not be able to get back to Sprint Cup.
Summer: If he’s winning that many races each year, someone will offer it to him.
Phil: It’s debatable whether we’ll ever see Elliott Sadler full-time in Cup again. I don’t think Logano wants to fall completely off the radar because of a series of bad races in the second series.
Mike N.: They have sponsorship for that. If he gives that up to go run a Cup car for RPM he’s an idiot.
Amy: Maybe, Mike, but we’ve seen it before.
Summer: Sadler was sucking wind in Cup when that happened, and he’s competitive in Nationwide. At least we sometimes see some good runs out of Logano.
Summer: Even then, Logano is heads and shoulders above Sadler in the Nationwide Series.
Amy: Logano is only 22… he should still be in Nationwide to begin with. NASCAR needs to raise the minumum age and/or experience level for Cup, but that’s another conversation.
Mike N.: Logano owns the Nationwide Series. There is nothing for him to gain by taking a step backwards. He was second in points scored in the Chase last Fall. He’s won this year. Why should he go back?
Summer: He shouldn’t, but JGR either needs to change something for him or he needs to change something for himself.
Mike N.: If he should go back then Martin Truex damn sure should go back. He wasn’t won squat
Summer: Great point.
Phil: I disagree, Amy. However, the only reason Logano came to Cup so quick was that Gene Haas gave Stewart the Godfather offer.
Amy: Mike, you just said he would be stupid to take another Cup ride over the JGR NNS ride… so which one is it?
Mike N.: Logano has the experience already.
Amy: Should he or shouldn’t he?
Mike N.: If he doesn’t get an offer to run a Cup car that can win a title, then he’s crazy to leave JGR.
Mike N.: But JGR shouldn’t put him back in NNS because it isn’t going to benefit him at all.
Amy: IMO, there should be a requirement of at least two years in Nationwide and Trucks.
Mike N.: Had Stewart not left JGR there would have been at least that. Unfortunately the circumstances conspired against that happening.
Amy: But there’s no money to put him in a Cup car, so what other choice is there?
Mike N.: Nothing Summer.
Mike N.: Put him in a Cup car and piece together sponsorship.
Amy: JGR made a massive mistake doing that. They could have signed someone for two years — except for the no money part.
Mike N.: Yes they did, but it is water under the bridge now. Joe and JD have enough money.
Mike N.: Including Game Stop, Dollar General and probably more.
Summer: I’m not sure I believe that no one wants him. Wasn’t it a fact that JGR specifically asked Home Depot to scale back because Dollar General wanted on board?
Amy: Yes
Mike N.: That is the claim. although I find that hard to believe.
Amy: Or that’s what they said, anyway.
Mike N.: I think HD wanted to back off.
Summer: They still took up a big portion of the schedule.
Summer: And Dollar General didn’t seem to shy away from him.
Phil: GameStop coming to Cup on a more regular basis would be good, I guess.
Mike N.: If nothing else I’d love to see the driver uniforms. They’ve had some awesome getups for Logano this year.
Phil: They would need someone else to pair up with GameStop to make it work, though.
Amy: It would, but I’m not sure they can afford it. If they did, it would be for fewer races unless they step up the dollars significantly.
Phil: Officially scale back to just the #18 in Nationwide and maybe stick Ryan Truex in there.
Mike N.: Logano is 21 now. Talk Hooters into coming back to Cup. I really miss them in motorsports.
Amy: I can’t see Logano hocking Hooters.
Phil: They’ve had financial problems in recent years. I think they were bankrupt recently.
Amy: He looks like he’s 12…he’d look as ridiculous as Kasey Kahen did running for Budweiser.
Phil: He’s too tall to look 12.
Summer: Ok fine. 12 1/2.
Mike N.: I can see him grinning from ear to ear next to three girls with huge Hooters. It would be awesome.
Summer: I can’t see JD Gibbs being happy with that.
Summer: Roger Penske? Sure.
Amy: He’d look like Beavis and Butthead..”heh heh…booooobs”
Mike N.: I don’t know. I just can’t believe Gibbs is going to let Joey leave. He’s a very talented driver who is still barely in his 20s.
Summer: It’s not Gibbs’ decision. It’s Joey’s.
Amy: Seriously, though, why are Brian Vicklers and Kurt Busch not getting more looks? I know it’s going to be a tough road for Busch because he’s burned so many bridges, but surely someone would consider him?
Mike N.: I don’t know, other than there aren’t seats open.
Phil: I don’t know. Its been a pretty bad year for Kurt. Might be looking at another year in the #51.
Summer: He blew two top notch rides because of his attitude. Most people don’t even get second chances, let alone a third.
Summer: As far as Vickers, he’s been so up and down in the past, that I just don’t see him going anywhere other than MWR.
Phil: Also, random note. You guys catch Kurt driving with his decklid up on Saturday night? That was weird.
Kevin: Kurt’s wrecked so many race cars this year, I don’t know if he’ll necessarily be getting a look elsewhere. Unless there’s that possibility w/ Furniture Row.

*We said a few weeks ago that favorites for the Camping World Truck Series title wouldn’t emerge until after Bristol…so, who is legit in that title race with Bristol in the rearview?*

Mike N.: Um….Peters.
Amy: I think at this point, Timothy Peters goes all the way.
Beth: Peters… and maybe Buescher.
Summer: How can you _not_ say Peters?
Amy: Buescher is in it for sure.
Kevin: Putting it shortly: Peters, Buescher, Dillon. I think Ty Dillon is still a year out. Maybe Lofton. But those last two are a bit more of a long shot than the first two.
Mike N.: Dillon isn’t out of it yet.
Beth: I’d say Justin Lofton has an outside chance, Kevin, but he’s cooled off significantly since he won.
Summer: I’m not sold on Dillon. If he can get to Victory Lane, maybe.
Phil: Peters definitely staked his claim Wednesday night. Parker Kligerman is doing very well with Red Horse, though. If something stupid doesn’t happen over the next couple of months, he could be up there.
Summer: Lofton would take a miracle.
Amy: Lofton is a dark horse.
Summer: So is Kligerman. If one of you says Crafton is still in it, though, I might have to disown you.
Phil: Peters’ lead is 17 right now over Buescher. That really isn’t much.
Beth: Kligerman is a true example that BKR is really lacking in their equipment… and that’s something Keselowski has seen personally.
Summer: It is if you look at how well Peters has done recently.
Amy: I think the fall stretch, without the off weeks, will be a real test of Dillon and his ability to either carry momentum or bounce back from problems.
Beth: Right, Phil, but he’s led for the last six races.
Phil: Dillon is there because of consistency.
Mike N.: I’m not counting anyone totally out of it who is in the top 9, but in reality, it is a five-horse race, and more like a three-horse race.
Amy: And while I know he’s got a ton of ground to make up, I think Piquet could still make a charge. I don’t know if he’ll get to the top, but top 5 is totally realistic.
Kevin: Yeah, let’s be real – Dillon hasn’t set the series on fire yet. Only two top 5s all year. He’s still in it, but I don’t see much changing from what he’s done so far.
Kevin: Maybe a win. Maybe.
Beth: Anyone back to Nelson Piquet can make it, but realistically, barring a couple of DNFs for Peters, the top 5 are the ones that really have a shot.
Phil: Beyond Kligerman, everyone’s more than a full race back. It would require some guys to have issues for those guys (Crafton, Coulter, Hornaday and Piquet) to get into better position. I think 10th might be as good as Jason White can do, though.
Beth: I can see Dillon heading to Victory :ane when they head back to Martinsville, Kevin.
Mike N.: I could see Dillon turning the top 10s into top 5s and ripping off three wins in a row, while Peters has a valve spring failure and things get really interesting.
Beth: He ran really well there earlier this year and may have had a shot to win if he hadn’t done the teammate thing and let Harvick pull in front of him on every restart.
Phil: Not if Kevin Harvick enters the race. He’s a near prohibitive favorite for that race if he shows up.
Amy: Depends, Phil…team orders, anyone?
Phil: I think Harvick would want to win way too much to give in to that.
Mike N.: Harvick knows who signs his paychecks. And who let him win the Spring race.
Beth: You beat me to it, Mike. If Childress says it, he’ll do it.
Amy: In any case, it would be cool to see Red Horse or Turner take home the big paycheck…that’s the cool thing about the trucks…an independent can be competitive every week
Beth: And speaking of team orders, what was with them talking to Kligerman and him agreeing to help Peters on the final restart at Bristol?
Mike N.: I’m not saying Harvick is going to pull over and let Dillon win if he’s got a straightaway lead, but if it is close, I could see it happening.
Summer: Yeah Beth it sounds like Kligerman now races for a team he can win the championship with, but it came at a price. He’s second fiddle now.
Amy: Was he told not to try to pass him? If not, I don’t have a problem with helping a teammate whenever you can
Phil: I didn’t like that. I wanted Kligerman to go up there and try to take it away from Peters.
Summer: I didn’t like it either. If he wanted to race for the lead, he should have been allowed to.
Mike N.: I don’t remember the exact conversation but it was basically to let Peters get clear and then go race him.
Beth: That I’m not sure of, but the quote from Peters’ crew chief was “They’ve talked to Parker and he’s going to help you here.”
Amy: If that’s the case, Mike, I have no issue
Amy: if Parker could block other teams so that they couls settle it, that’s what teammates are for
Mike N.: I guess. I don’t really like it, but I understand it.
Summer: I disagree with that. They may be teammates, but they are still inidividual teams with individual points and races to win.
Beth: I don’t agree with it at all. Everyone knows you gain the most ground on a restart, so why in the world would you want to let the leader get clear then hope you can pass him?
Phil: Every time I hear the term “Running Blocker,” I think of the Bandit with his Trans-Am drawing attention away from the illegal Coors. This is a little different, but the result is the same.
Beth: Wouldn’t it be better to just race each other and let the best driver win?
Summer: You would think so.
Beth: But I guess Kligerman was content to let his teammate win knowing he’d just joined RHR less than two weeks earlier.
Beth: And in that respect, I can understand where he was coming from. After all, it’s not likely Kligerman would be as competitive as he’s been the last two races if not for the help of his teammates.
Amy: Exactly, Beth…after all, what goes around comes around…
Beth: I will be interested to see what happens in the next few weeks. Kligerman was one of those guys that I thought had a decent chance to win during his rookie season but just couldn’t. Now we see that it was likely his equipment holding him back.
Mike N.: I will tell you one thing. He’ll never say it on the record, but I guarantee it felt great to pass that No. 29 Wednesday night.

*Predictions for Atlanta?*

Amy: I think I’m going to go with Jeff Gordon repeating the race and getting that second W towards the wild card.
Mike N.: Jimmie Johnson. Whew, had to get that in before someone else did.
Summer: Screw you, Mike.
Mike N.: Can I just have Jimmie Johnson for the rest of the season please?
Summer: Tony Stewart.
Mike N.: I don’t think Brad dropped him like that. I really do think it was a mutual decision. But I have enjoyed seeing him run well in the new ride.
Kevin: I’ll go with Kasey Kahne.
Phil: I’m taking a “Joker’s Wild” pick. That means I’m going off-the-board and going with Trevor Bayne.
Amy: I think it was a Penske decision, Mike.
Beth: The more I think about it, Amy, the more I’m sure you’re right.
Mike N.: I still hope that Edwards can sneak into the top 10 and hose all of the drivers with one win.
Phil: I’ve been impressed with Bayne’s pace at intermediates this year.
Beth: I’m going with Carl Edwards. He overdrove but was out front late at Bristol and he finished top 5 in both races at Atlanta last season.

*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

Irwin Tools Night Race

*Writer* *Pick* *Finishing Position* *Points*
Amy Henderson Brad Keselowski 30th -1
Summer Bedgood Kyle Busch 6th 1
Kevin Rutherford Jimmie Johnson 2nd 3
Phil Allaway Kevin Harvick 15th 0
Mike Neff Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 12th 0

_You can “click here”:https://frontstretch.com/md/37520/ to see race results from the full season._

*Points Standings*

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Mike Neff 35 21 *3* *9* 14
Kevin Rutherford 34 -1 17 *2* *10* 13
Amy Henderson 28 -7 23 1 8 *16*
Phil Allaway 25 -10 23 1 7 13
Tom Bowles 8 -27 4 *2* 2 2
Rick Lunkenheimer 5 -30 1 1 1 1
Matt Stallknecht 5 -30 1 1 1 1
Beth Lunkenheimer 4 -31 15 1 2 4
Tony Lumbis 1 -34 1 0 0 1
Summer Bedgood 1 -34 1 0 0 1
Jeff Meyer 0 -35 1 0 0 0
Jesse Medford -2 -37 1 0 0 0
Vito Pugliese -2 -37 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 Summer!*

“Contact Summer Bedgood”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/28526/

*Connect with Mike!*

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

*Connect with Phil!*

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

*Connect with Kevin!*

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

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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