Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Championship Consistency, Regan’s Release and Turning a Blind Eye

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/
Mike Neff “(Mondays / Full Throttle & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short Track Coordinator)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744
Phil Allaway “(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/
Summer Bedgood “(Wednesdays / Power Rankings and Tweet ‘N Greet & Thursdays / Fan Q&A )”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/32575/
Kevin Rutherford (Wednesdays / Kevin’s Corner)

*In 2011, Tony Stewart won the championship on the strength of five Chase victories. After two races this year, Jimmie Johnson leads the points after finishing second twice. Will that type of consistency near the front be enough to capture a Chase title… or will it take multiple wins?*

Mike: It all depends on what happens around Johnson. In reality, most every year if you can average a top-5 finish you’re going to be right there.
Amy: I think it will take multiple wins…but will it take five? That’s a stretch to think it will go that way again with so many teams capable of winning two or more races.
Summer: I think he’ll need a couple, but I highly doubt he’ll need as many as Stewart did. I think both scenarios are plausible. Carl Edwards did almost the complete opposite last year.
Mike: Exactly. One finish in the final 10 just one position higher and Edwards is the champ last year.

Jimmie Johnson–searching for a sixth championship–has back-to-back runner-up finishes to open up the Chase.

Phil: It’s not quite a proportional thing (If you win q races, you can average h to win the title), but if you don’t win, you do have to be just that little bit better every single week.
Mike: If I was the competition, I’d be worried when Johnson says they’re focusing on finishing in the top three each week. If they’re that good, the other teams are in trouble.
Amy: If Johnson can finish second every week, i don’t think you could beat him — but he won’t.
Phil: Now, if Johnson finishes second every week until Homestead, no one’s beating him.
Kevin: Phil, I could totally see that happen, lest something bad happens at Talladega. Which is obviously quite possible. I also don’t think it’ll take a Stewart-esque run, but if trouble strikes Johnson will need to win maybe once or twice more with this field.
Mike: If Johnson finishes top three every week, he’s the champ.
Amy: Exactly, Mike, so you can’t stroke at all or you’re done. That’s what killed Edwards last year… he settled a couple of times instead of risking a crash and it did him in.
Summer: I don’t think you can call tying “did him in”….. One position doesn’t mean he was settling.
Mike: Amy’s right; Edwards did settle for some finishes instead of going harder. There were at least three times I remember that Carl didn’t press the issue. If he does it on any one of those, he would have won.
Phil: Now, Johnson doesn’t need five wins to get this title. Heck, he might only need one at this pace.
Mike: I think Johnson is going to do well at Talladega. He can’t possibly have all four plate races end poorly in one season, can he?
Amy: Mike, Jimmie is an average plate racer on his best day, so he could have a fourth DNF or he could win if the chips fall right.
Phil: I don’t think anyone’s ever won a title and thrown up 4 stink bombs in plate races, Chase or not.
Amy: Along those lines… you may not need the wins, but it used to be everyone had a “mulligan.” Now, I’m not so sure they do. Or if they do have one, it’s a day where they can finish 15th-20th, not have a DNF.
Mike: Oh yeah, with the way the points are now, a DNF and you’re done. The mulligan days for a DNF were when you could make up points by finishing well. You don’t do that in the current point system.
Kevin: Honestly, I think the only chance anyone else but Johnson has to win the Chase is if Johnson DNFs at Talladega. Otherwise, it’s going to be really tough for anyone else to top him, barring issues that I don’t see him having.
Amy: I think a lot of how a driver finishes has to do with how he handles pressure. That’s Johnson’s real advantage. I think it also puts Keselowski above Hamlin.
Mike: Keselowski and Hamlin are not going to make it easy on him, but I really think the No. 48 is the class of the Chase right now.
Amy: On the other hand, it’s Hamlin’s team who was able to work around the new rear end rules the fastest, so that gives them an edge. I’m not convinced Hamlin can handle the pressure those two rivals can dish out, though. Grubb can for sure, but the jury is out on Denny.
Mike: Denny has matured a lot, but I’m with you. I still wonder, when Homestead rolls around – if it is all on his shoulders – whether he’ll come through or not.
Phil: You guys all think its Johnson’s to lose? It’s way too early for that kind of mentality.
Mike: Phil, Jimmie was legitimately pissed he let the points for leading the most laps get away this past weekend. The attitude of that team is at a level that it may have never been at before.
Amy: Well, I do think Hamlin and Keselowski have the advantage of non-Chase teammates to run R&D for them… Johnson doesn’t. That could make a difference.
Mike: I think it would be fun to see Johnson win the title without winning a race in the Chase. None of the drivers in the Chase who didn’t win a race in the regular season have a chance.
Amy: Attitude aside, Hamlin has the best cars right now. And they definitely have that rear end figured out. The 11 was sideways on the straights at Loudon. That means the car is set up to turn better, and that will win races… could be the difference this year.

*Just weeks after stating publicly that they expected to re-sign Regan Smith, Furniture Row Racing will let Smith go in favor of Kurt Busch. Is this move a good one for FRR or not?*

Kevin: I mentioned this possibility in this column two weeks ago, and I kinda figured it was gonna happen. It did, and while I’m not happy for Regan Smith, I think it’s the best chance FRR has had to compete with the Big Boys so far. I think Kurt will fare better there than with Phoenix.
Phil: Well, I somewhat expected this to happen. Kurt’s had a great working relationship with Furniture Row for the last couple of years. I do think that he probably wishes there was a second car for Regan, though. Those two work together very well, and not just in tandem drafts.
Amy: Good move? I don’t know. Regan Smith is ahead of Kurt Busch in points right now in what’s basically equal equipment. On the other hand, FRR has managed to eventually screw over everybody who has ever driven their cars, so they sort of deserve each other.

Regan Smith became the odd man out at Furniture Row Racing when they signed Kurt Busch for the 2013 season.

Mike: I guess we’ll see. I wonder if Kurt will move to Colorado… seems iffy. I did think Regan was a great fit for that team, as the temperaments seemed to mesh well between driver and management. If things start out rocky for Busch, it could spiral downhill quickly.
Summer: I don’t mean to ask a stupid question, but I’m assuming that means Furniture Row will be the sponsor and they’re totally ok with it?
Kevin: Yes, Summer. At least for Kurt’s sake, it means there isn’t any necessary sponsorship search, unless they want some random one-off deals.
Phil: True. That stuff just killed Kurt’s season this year. That, and wrecking.
Mike: Furniture Row comes packaged with an RCR alliance, which in theory should help Kurt. But then again… Phoenix gets support from Hendrick. I don’t know that getting RCR help is better than Hendrick, just looking at the cars at the top of the points.
Amy: I sort of wonder about chemistry, though. The owner is pretty religious…and well, we’ve all seen Busch’s behavior…I wonder how that will fly. In any case, it was kind of a crappy move to say they planned to keep Smith and then kick him to the curb the second they had another offer.
Mike: I don’t know what went on behind closed doors, but Regan sure seems to like riding the No. 78. It would be hard to believe he decided to up and leave, let’s say, without a better offer on the table. This Busch deal appears to have pushed him out.
Summer: Anyway, I wouldn’t be so surprised by the Busch choice if he didn’t already have two, almost three, strikes against him.
Amy: Well, like I said, the way the team has treated its drivers in the past and given Busch’s issues… they deserve each other.
Summer: Who did FRR treat badly?
Amy: Let’s see, they dumped Kenny Wallace over their own internal issues, then Joe Nemechek was shown the door for the young gun, and now Regan Smith for Busch… not a great track record.
Summer: I wasn’t denying it, I just needed a memory refresher of FRR history. My guess is, though, they’ll get just as fed up with Busch as everyone else.
Kevin: Yeah, I really don’t see this lasting more than a year, if that.
Amy: I know when Wallace drove there, the team basically ignored his requests for extra test sessions, etc… and then told people that Wallace refused to test. They had careless mechanical mistakes and power issues and blamed the driver.
Phil: Wallace was driving for the team something like five years ago. That might as well be a millennium ago for that team.
Amy: But they also have a track record of treating drivers badly, Phil.
Summer: I think Kurt is a better driver than Regan… obviously… but it still sucks that it went down like that.
Kevin: Agreed with Summer. All in all, I think this may be better for FRR, though I don’t like that Regan had to lose a ride.
Amy: For Busch, this is probably a last best chance, because the team doesn’t need to attract a sponsor.
Phil: If they’re staying, then Kurt will likely benefit substantially. He’ll do a lot better in points than 25th.
Amy: I don’t know that it is better for FRR. And I don’t see there being decent chemistry there.

*During an interview last week at New Hampshire, Kyle Busch said that he felt he wasn’t getting enough television interviews recently. Is this change due to the Chase, and if it is, should the media change their approach to how they cover the drivers in the Chase — and out of it?*

Amy: I thought it was kind of funny that Kyle Busch, he who wouldn’t talk for two weeks, would be the one complaining. But he’s right.
Phil: Is it due to the Chase? You betcha. If anyone has a Chase bias to interviews, it’s ESPN. I find it interesting, and made note of it in my critique. At this point, I’d argue that even that network is a little gunshy when it comes to interviewing Kyle to begin with. The Chase is a nice excuse not to.
Mike N.: I don’t know why Busch is not getting the interviews. Could be because he’s not in the Chase. Could be because he makes it difficult for certain media to deal with him sometimes, so they choose not to since they don’t have to.
Kevin: I find it hilarious that Kyle Busch is complaining about lack of interviews. Just a few years ago, he would have been complaining about too many.
Summer: Well our job is not to cover anyone who “needs” it. It’s about covering the story. Right now, that’s the Chase.
Amy: The Chase isn’t the only story, Summer, that’s just ridiculous… every race is still a story. But if you aren’t in the Chase, no matter where you finish, you might as well be invisible. Even if you win, they gloss it over and go right back to the Chase.
Summer: The guy who won has _no_ impact on the Chase, unless he wrecked a Chase contender to get there. Specifying that, I mean if a non-chaser like Kyle won.
Mike N.: Every race is a story, but the top cars every week are the Chase cars. Why? Because they’re the best teams. That’s why they’re in the Chase.
Amy: I do see it being a very real problem if it continues.
Summer: Yeah, but why pay more attention to someone who finished in the top five and it doesn’t mean a damn thing as opposed to the guy who finished second? I’m not saying it’s ideal, but the philosophy makes sense.
Amy: There were three cars in the top 10 who were not Chasers at New Hampshire, and yet the Chasers who had crappy finishes got more air time…
Mike N.: Sorry, I don’t think you should talk to them when they aren’t in contention for the title. Sure, you can give them a nice pat on the back and a hearty handshake but if they didn’t earn it in the first 26, they don’t get it now.
Amy: That’s BS, Mike. It’s going to hurt the sport as a whole. What’s going to start happening is sponsors will make the package contingent on the Chase… get in, we sponsor those ten races, miss it, we get nothing, so you’re on your own for cash.
Phil: I’m surprised that didn’t start happening in 2005, Amy.
Amy: To me, a good run is a good run. I’d rather hear from the guy who finished 7th than the one who finished 17th, Chase or no.
Summer: It is not BS! They didn’t perform. If they have one shining moment in a race that has no impact on the season as a whole, why does it matter?
Mike N.: Summer is right; welcome to reality. Do they give equal air time to the Cubs and the Astros on Sportscenter at this point of the season? No, because they suck. If a Cubs pitcher throws a one-hitter against the Astros, nobody gives a crap.
Amy: They _did_ perform. Last time I checked, _every_ race counted. This past week, Joey Logano, Brian Vickers, and Ryan Newman performed. Some Chase guys didn’t.
Summer: Yeah but it’s the Chase guys who matter because they still at least have a shot. Logano, Vickers, and Newman don’t. Not at this point in the year. It doesn’t matter anymore. And I doubt it would even put them on the radar screen if there _wasn’t_ a Chase simply because we’re just too close to the title.
Amy: It matters every week to the sponsors, guys. If you want to see 33 blank cars for ten weeks, then keep your heads in the sand, because it will come to that.
Phil: Let’s see. The drivers that got post-race interviews finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th. That’s Hamlin, Johnson, Gordon, Bowyer, Kahne, Keselowski and Kenseth.
Summer: Why is that a bad thing? That’s the top five and a couple of others. It’s not our job to please the sponsors.
Mike N.: The others not listed? They didn’t perform well enough. Get a top five. The six through 10 finishers don’t normally get air time unless the networks have to fill during the first 26 races. No reason for them to get air time now.
Phil: One could argue that post-race interviews once you get beyond the top-4 or so are kinda based on storylines.
Amy: What about _during_ the race broadcast? ESPN talked about Biffle and Junior ad nauseum all day long, though they were mediocre at best, and barely mentioned guys like Logano who ran top ten all day long. That bothers me more than the postrace interviews.
Summer: I didn’t see them pay much attention to either of those drivers until well into the race, and that was while they were racing for position. Unless I missed something.
Amy: Honestly, if Vickers had won the race, they would have spent two minutes on him postrace and the rest on the Chasers.
Summer: Why is that a bad thing? Vickers would have been a nice, feel good story but that’s not what’s relevant right now. If he won in the beginning or the middle of the season, sure. But now?
Amy: Winning a race is always relevant. Always.
Phil: I don’t know what would have happened, honestly. I don’t think Michael Waltrip would have gotten interviewed like Joe Gibbs did, but other than that, it would have been similar, especially given the amount of time they had.
Summer: You can’t convince me he’d get _no_ coverage. But his win has no impact on the Chase.
Mike N.: Amy, would you rather have a blank car for 10 races or 36?
Amy: Once one sponsor goes that route, so will others… and overall, it hurts the sport.
Summer: I’m pretty sure if it were the right driver, they wouldn’t do that. Can you imagine the backlash from Junior Nation if a sponsor pulled out because he missed the Chase?
Phil: It would be ugly, although the sponsor would justify it. They wouldn’t like the PR hit, though.
Amy: This whole debate is just another reason why the Chase hurts the sport. It’s Chase, Chase, Chase, when it _should_ be race, race, race
Mike N.: Amy, crappy cars, bogus yellows and gerry rigged races hurt the sport far worse than who is getting coverage and what sponsors are getting mentioned. Unfortunately, when the championship is the main focus, that is what you’re going to get.
Summer: Again, I think the focus would be based upon the contenders regardless of whether there is a playoff system or not. With eight races to go, the contenders are ALWAYS going to be the focus.
Amy: The whole thing is gerry-rigged. You need balance. The race should get equal attention to the Chase.
Mike N.: Not when the winner of the race gets $300,000 and the winner of the Chase gets $10,000,000.
Summer: Also, I have a hard time believing that a feel good story like Vickers would get _no_ coverage. Even shows like _NASCAR Now_ and Race Hub would spend time on it. It may not be the main focus, nor should it be, but it would get attention. Add Logano or Newman to that mix, there is a storyline with both, too when you look at their situations (or lack thereof) for next year. Again, the Chase would get the deserved coverage, but their stories would be told too.
Phil: The Chase just means that we get the points jammed down our throats a lot more and a lot earlier than before. This type of coverage has encroached other series and it drives me nuts.
Summer: Why is it bad to pay attention to the points with this few races left? I’m pretty sure it matters.
Mike N.: OK, so let me get this straight. Greg Biffle led the points for most of the season. He’s running for a title that he still has a shot for, while Brian Vickers runs once a month in a car that is emblematic of the problem you’re speaking of and he’s supposed to get more coverage than Biffle because he finished a handful of spots ahead of him?
Amy: Why shouldn’t they have equal coverage, Mike? Each is a story. The race winner and the race storylines should be the main focus that day, regardless of the Chase. There is the rest of the week to focus only on the Chase. The Chase is a part of the story at each individual race, but it should not be the only one.
Summer: But it’s not! The winner _always_ gets coverage and is talked about. I’m not saying it’s an even balance, but in the Chase that’s not even necessary. You just will not convince me had that group of drivers not managed to win that they would have been ignored.
Mike N.: Why should a sixth-place finisher be a focus? I just don’t understand the point.
Phil: The Chase matters. But, it’s not the only thing. Nowadays, it seems to be the only thing worth mentioning.
Summer: If that was the only memorable thing about the race, then so be it.
Amy: There is so much more to the NASCAR story every week than the Chase. So much more.
Summer: But the Chase, in other words _championship,_ are what everyone is thinking about. And unless the other person does something to make us take notice… like a win… it doesn’t matter. A top 10 is pretty well insignificant.
Amy: There are three hours of race coverage… that’s plenty of time to talk about how great a run some non Chasers are having and still spend an hour BS’ing on “if the race ended now…”
Summer: They do occasionally mention the non-Chasers if they are running well enough. But running 12th when you normally run 21st hardly warrants a mention. It’s not our job to sympathetic.
Mike N.: The best teams end up at the front and they have earned the coverage. A casual mention on through the field is what the other drivers get and that is what they deserve.
Amy: I disagree that the Chase is what everyone is thinking about. Plenty of fans are still cheering for their driver (Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have a lot of them). Sponsors are still paying for performance. Lots of people are more focused on that week’s race than the Chase… like a quarter of them.
Summer: Well let’s go back tot he person who started it. Kyle Busch. If he wanted to be relevant and wanted the TV coverage, maybe he should have, ya know, made the Chase.
Kevin: I think that’s what it comes back to, Summer. In this current climate, that’s what you need to do, and Kyle hasn’t been spectacular lately. Solid, maybe,but not spectacular.
Phil: Gee, you make it sound like Kyle wasn’t trying.
Mike N.: Carl Edwards hasn’t received much coverage in two months because he stinks. If you don’t run up front, you don’t deserve TV time, contrary to the ridiculous amount of coverage Danica receives.
Phil: ESPN never goes completely through the field. Only the NBC Sports Network does that on IndyCar broadcasts. And they’re done for the year.
Mike N.: They haven’t gone through the entire field in five years. They go back to 15th. If you’re behind that, you don’t deserve a mention unless you were leading and something bad happened.
Amy: So basically a quarter of the fans and a quarter of the sponsors don’t see their guy unless he’s wrecking or getting lapped… yeah, that’s real healthy for the sport.
Summer: Maybe their guy just isn’t that good this year.
Amy: Maybe their guy will _never_ be that good… so what?
Summer: Because what you’re asking is for the media to cater to every one single fan with a favorite driver. That’s not convenient, that’s not possible, and it’s certainly not necessary.
Mike N.: They need to come to the track to see their guy run.
Amy: None of you, back in the days when you were a race fan, ever had an underdog as a favorite driver, did you? Because for those that do, they have to scrounge for crumbs as it is. I know people who watch an entire race just _hoping_ to see their guy once or twice.
Mike N.: Yes I did. And I didn’t expect to see him on TV unless he was being lapped by the leader.
Summer: It’s hardly possible and completely nonsensical to give all 43 drivers equal coverage.
Amy: IndyCar broadcasts cover the entire field. NASCAR broadcasts used to go through the entire field a few times every race. At least it was something.
Mike N.: IndyCar has 20 CARS!!!! NASCAR has 43. You can’t cover 43 cars equally. It isn’t practical, logical, or what anyone outside of the people pulling for also rans wants to see.
Summer: Exactly. That would annoy the hell out of a majority of people tuning in.
Amy: You guys really think the broadcast shouldn’t go through the entire field just a couple of times a race? That’s pretty short-sighted. I never said everyone deserved equal coverage, I sid the _race_ should have equal coverage with the Chase, as it used to…but they all deserve _some_ coverage, especially if they are outrunning the big names or the title contenders!
Summer: They deserve special mention _only_ if they are doing that. Other wise, it doesn’t matter to anyone but the people who know them and a few fans who make a habit of cheering for underdogs.

*There hasn’t been an official announcement yet, but speculation in the Nationwide garage is that Joe Gibbs Racing will sign both Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers to full-time Nationwide seats in the Nos. 18 and 20, respectively for 2013. These are cars that had previously been rotated among JGR’s Cup stars and a few others. Is going with full-time drivers instead the way to attract sponsors?*

Summer: No, going with Cup drivers does. But I’m glad to see that they might be able to make something work.
Amy: Recent trends say no, but if either of these guys win a title, it could definitely attract sponsors.
Phil: Ideally, having full-time drivers would be favorable. A sponsor would have the same dude every week and that dude could do things for the sponsor. Having Cup drivers means that there’s a higher likelihood that your colors would be up front — just less of a likelihood that the driver would give a hoot about you.
Summer: Yeah, but having Kyle Busch in from time to time puts more eyes on the car.
Kevin: I think it could attract sponsors, though JGR has never seemed to struggle too much in that regard anyway.
Mike N.: The choice is not as good as running Cup drivers in the cars, but it is a noble effort. I would rather see them run the likes of Max Gresham and Matt DiBenedetto but I don’t live in a fantasy world.
Amy: I do wonder if there hasn’t been some outside influence in the case of Vickers. Anyways, winning races is what will put eyes on the car.
Summer: I agree winning helps attract sponsors, and both Vickers and Sadler can do that. Sadler, Stenhouse, and Dillon have gotten quite a bit of coverage this year.
Phil: Winning’s nice, obviously, but a sponsor is going to want bang for their buck. Someone that can identify with your brand, even in Nationwide, is big.
Amy: If the Cup drivers aren’t in the race, they won’t get the coverage, it’s pretty simple.
Summer: Yeah, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
Amy: Sure it is… if teams put in regular drivers, there won’t be a problem with the Cup guys hogging the coverage.
Summer: Yeah but that’s not always good business sense. Unless JGR proves otherwise with this move, which they very well might.
Mike N.: You were talking about the best way to attract a sponsor. You’re going to have better luck if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is in your car than if you have Barry Beggarly behind the wheel.
Summer: Or Kyle Busch over Matt DiBenedetto.
Mike N.: Or Logano or Hamlin.
Summer: No one’s asking us to like it, but that gets more attention for the sponsors and that’s what works. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see JGR succeed with this and show that having one driver all year race for the championship is best. But _right now,_ that’s not what the situation is like.
Amy: I agree, but hopefully the teams can change that in time by hiring more NNS regulars.
Mike N.: That, or the series will just die a slow death on the vine because the modern, ADD casual fans that NASCAR has attracted won’t take the time to get to know new drivers in a development series.
Summer: If Vickers is in the car and up front consistently, he’ll make his sponsors happy.
Amy: I also think Sadler is a proven driver in Nationwide now, so sponsors shouldn’t balk at him. And JGR has some good relationships with some sponsors. It shouldn’t be a problem. The JGR cars are head and shoulders above anyone else on the equipment side, and if they run away with the title like they should, sponsors will notice.
Phil: Yeah, Sadler shouldn’t be too hard to get sponsored, if they even need to find someone for him. I thought I heard that he’s bringing OneMain with him.
Kevin: I heard that too, Phil. I’d imagine that’s what’s going to happen.
Mike N.: I’d argue that right now, RFR and RCR cars are better than JGR Nationwide cars.
Amy: Yeah, Mike, that’s why Logano has what, six wins?
Summer: Mike, I think that’s more a quality of the drivers there. Who are running for a championship, I mean at both RFR and RCR. They do fine with the right person, and I think that would hold true for these two at Gibbs.
Mike N.: Put Harvick in the RCR car against the JGR cars and see what happens. Pretty sure he crushed them at Atlanta before the “water bottle” caution.
Summer: If you have Kyle Busch/Denny Hamlin/Joey Logano in the JGR car, it’s basically 50-50 in that scenario. Now if it’s Brian Scott… Yeah. Totally going with Harvick.
Amy: I think the No. 11 would win races with a better driver. But I digress…
Phil: I think Brian Scott has no luck, simple as that.
Amy: Scott runs up front most weeks until he hits something.
Summer: Anyways, when Kyle Busch was consistently in the car, it was usually a toss up between the two (him and Harvick).
Mike N.: It was, but JGR has fallen behind and they’ll even admit to that.
Summer: I think they could get back to that with the right driver. But they need someone there who knows what the car should feel like. Kyle knew how to relay information and what made the car tick. I don’t get the feeling that Scott does.
Phil: JGR was behind a little when the Nationwide COT’s debuted, but they really only legitimately fell off when Kyle left for his own team. Having said that, they have more than their fair share of wins this year.
Amy: How sad is the NNS right now? Joe Nemechek’s underfunded operation is in the top 10. I think a couple more legit title contenders are good for the series, and in the long run, a strong series is good for the sponsors. In the short run, the Cup guys will get a quick buck but don’t do a thing for the health of this division…you have to look at the big picture here.
Mike N.: Yeah, let’s look at the big picture. Y’all wanted Nationwide regulars in the title hunt and you have Joe Nemechek in the top 10. Be careful what you ask for.
Phil: True, we have Nemechek in the top-10. However, he’s something like eight races out of the lead.
Amy: I have no problem with Nemechek in the top 10; it’s just a surprise based on money. It’s great to see hard work and talent win out over big money.
Mike N.: He isn’t winning out over money. He is winning out by simply persevering.
Amy: He’s ahead of Danica, isn’t he? If that team doesn’t bleed money, I don’t know who does.
Summer: He’s beating her by four points. And that’s flip flopped throughout the year. Anyways, I totally agree that having two talented, full-time drivers in good equipment will be _great_ for the sport. It will set a precedent for other teams/sponsors. But until that happens, things will stay the way they are. JGR would be a great ambassador for that, but people need to see it happen first.
Kevin: Yeah, having Vickers and Sadler there will bring two more championship contenders, but it’d be great to see the series get back to being a place for young talent.
Summer: Maybe it will, but that’s not going to happen overnight. If sponsors and teams see that investing in and developing drivers in the Nationwide Series makes good business sense, it might go back to that.
Amy: I think it _is_ happening. Brad Keselowski said he plans to cut back on NNS next year. If he shares the No. 22 with Logano, that makes that the only full-time interloper.
Summer: I’d say Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon are great talents. Didn’t the broadcast mention there were seven or so drivers between about 18 and 25 in the race last week?
Phil: I looked it up. More like 14 drivers between 18-25. A number of them were S&P’ing, but 14 is the number.
Mike N.: I still maintain there isn’t anywhere for those young drivers to go at this point. The Cup series has like three seats that will open up in the next 10 years, and they’re already spoken for.

*Dover predictions?*

Amy: Mike called it last week: I’m taking Jimmie Johnson. Which means he won’t win, which should make a lot of people happy on Monday.
Kevin: I’m going to take Tony Stewart this week.
Phil: I wish he would bring the ‘fro wig. That was cool. Anyway, I’m going to take Greg Biffle. He’s had plenty of past success in Dover.
Amy: The wig was pretty awesome. Too bad Jimmie is too vanilla to wear a thing like that… oh, wait.
Summer: I’ll take Kenseth.
Mike N.: Well, since I was hosed by timing again, I’ll take Clint Bowyer. Hopefully he’ll be a whiny little baby all day and it will turn into another win.
Amy: Bowyer’s gotten me decent points the last couple of weeks.
Summer: Mike, did you hear him on Sunday?? Holy crap, I thought Kyle Busch was in that car for a while!

*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


*Writer* *Pick* *Finishing Position* *Points*
Amy Henderson Clint Bowyer 4th 3
Mike Neff Denny Hamlin 1st 5
Kevin Rutherford Jimmie Johnson 2nd 3
Phil Allaway Ryan Newman 10th 1

_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 38 24 *4* 10 15
Amy Henderson 35 -3 25 1 10 *19*
Kevin Rutherford 34 -4 21 2 *11* 14
Phil Allaway 27 -11 27 1 7 15
Matt Stallknecht 10 -23 2 2 2 2
Tom Bowles 8 -25 5 2 2 2
Rick Lunkenheimer 5 -28 1 1 1 1
Beth Lunkenheimer 3 -30 17 1 2 5
Summer Bedgood 3 -30 4 0 1 2
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 -37 1 0 0 0

*Connect with Amy!*

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

*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/

*Connect with Summer!*

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

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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