Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Rating The Restart, Dillon vs. Hamlin And Tough Times At EGR

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*:

Tom Bowles “(Mondays / Bowles-Eye View & Wednesdays / Did you Notice? & Frontstretch Editor-In-Chief)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/359/
Amy Henderson “(Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Managing Editor)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/
Phil Allaway “(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/
Mike Neff “(Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744/
Summer Bedgood “(Wednesdays / Power Rankings & Thursdays / Fan Q&A & Frontstretch Newsletter)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/32575/

*Other drivers and race fans were quick to accuse both Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, respectively, of jumping the final two restarts on Sunday, though NASCAR says neither driver broke any rules.  Did either one gain an unfair advantage on a restart… and should NASCAR consider a return to single-file restarts late in Cup races?*

Summer: Oh, my gosh _no_ do _not_ go back to single-file restarts. Double-file restarts are the best change NASCAR has made. Also, I watched both replays and I didn’t see either of them do anything wrong. They both did what they needed to do.
Tom: Well, you know I’m the first to say the double-file, lead-lap restart system is a total gimmick. But in terms of what happened Sunday night… couldn’t agree more with Brad Keselowski when he said, “Fair play on both sides.”
Mike N.: Oh good grief. No, they don’t need to go to single-file restarts. Johnson did jump the final restart but he gave the advantage back so there was no unfair advantage gained.
Amy: True…as long as you give the lead back, NASCAR has been lenient before.  If Johnson did jump, I think NASCAR gave the benefit of the doubt because Keselowski may have jumped the previous restart… but the broadcast showed where Keselowski spun his tires. He got a bad start, it wasn’t that the 48 jumped.

Did anyone gain an unfiar advantage on the late-race restarts at Texas? NASCAR-and our staff-says no.

Tom: I think in a championship, there are slight liberties and they were both pushing the issue to the ragged edge, knowing NASCAR won’t call it.
Phil: The single-file restarts late in Cup races often took a lot of the… everything out of late-race restarts. As for the restarts on Sunday, they were borderline, but not really anything that could be actionable.
Mike N.: If you seriously think about it. Is NASCAR going to black flag the series point leader and make him do a drive through that will eliminate him from title contention because he beat the leader to the line by a foot? Not a snowball’s chance in Hades.
Summer: And they shouldn’t anyway, Mike. It wasn’t blatant and there was room for doubt. With those circumstances, they shouldn’t penalize him.
Mike N.: Now mind you, had Keselowski never gotten his nose back in front, I’d feel differently. But since Keselowski had the lead into one I did not have a problem with it.
Amy: I agree with Mike. Also, drivers were saying Keselowski jumped the previous start as the leader, so perhaps NASCAR saw it as a way to give it back since they didn’t call that one either?
Summer: I don’t think NASCAR thought Keselowski jumped, though.
Tom: I think neither case was overly blatant. Yes, Keselowski accelerated a little quickly the first time but it wasn’t too bad. Johnson was ready for him the next time and it was borderline the other way. But it’s like a pass interference flag with 30 seconds left in the Super Bowl… you just don’t call that stuff.
Amy: As for single-file restarts, they aren’t good for the racing, plain and simple.  The end of the race wouldn’t have been as exciting for sure.
Tom: See, here’s the compromise I’d like to see. With less than ten laps to go, in all circumstances I’d do double-file restarts the way we have them now – with lead-lap cars up front. Because who the heck needs lapped cars up there for the final push? Otherwise, I think we have double-file restarts the old way — with lapped cars on the inside. And get rid of this ridiculous wave-around rule.
Summer: I like the wave around. I hate seeing the leaders have to wade through a sea of lapped cars. It doesn’t hurt anything and it keeps the focus on the leaders.
Tom: Oh Summer, the wave-around to me is the worst rule ever. But that’s another conversation for another day, I think.
Amy: I disagree with that, Tom.  The lapped cars ruined a lot of races because the leader got away scot-free and the other good cars couldn’t race him because the lapped cars were in the way.
Mike N.: You can’t do that Tom. NASCAR fans are too stupid to understand tail end of the lead lap cars being in front of the leader so we have to massage the rules so they can understand it. Just like they can’t add more than single digits, so we need a simplified point system that prevents people from making up large point deficits.
Tom: Hahaha. Well here, I think we are in agreement the restarts weren’t call-worthy. And what we got was some incredible Chase racing down the stretch, the best we’ve seen on an intermediate this year.
Summer: I’m glad NASCAR didn’t make the call on either Jimmie or Brad. They let them race.
Tom: The inability for Brad to gain the upper hand on that final restart may also decide the championship. I think Brad is going to regret those five points; that’s definitely the moment in which the 2012 championship was won, in my opinion.
Mike N.: I applaud both of them for laying it on the line and going for it. It would have been something to see them both wreck and bring another five drivers back into the title hunt.
Amy: I have to say I was impressed with the way the top 3 drove the final laps.  Either Johnson or Keselowski could have finished it right there and they raced cleanly. Kyle Busch, behind them, drove for everything he could get, but he didn’t drive over his head or cost them anything.
Mike N.: Busch drove hard but he wasn’t going to impact the title chase. I thought that was a good move on his part.
Tom: How about Danica Patrick still making it into the conversation even when she’s not crashing into people?
Mike N.: I didn’t think she was in the conversation.
Tom: She was supposedly blocking Keselowski in the pits.
Summer: Ohhhh… yeah, that whole thing was stupid and not on her part.
Tom: I agree, Summer, and I really wanted to bang my head against the wall. What more did they want her to do?
Phil: Patrick had every right to be on pit road.  She was on the lead lap basically the whole race.  Keselowski slid too far forward.
Amy: Exactly, Phil! If her car was in her box in a legal manner well, give Keselowski a tissue.

*A new Sprint Cup team, owned by Jonathan Cohen, is scheduled to debut at Phoenix with David Reutimann driving; their plan is to bump up to full-time competition in 2013.  Can an upstart team succeed, and if so, is there anything NASCAR could or should be doing to encourage more new teams to enter the sport at its highest level?*

Phil: This team is the same one that ran the No. 58 in Nationwide three years ago with Chase Austin. They also were supposedly a part of SK Motorsports.  However, they’re probably best known for that wreck where Austin accidentally took out Kyle Busch at Bristol. They’re on the entry list for this week, but they’ve put together a real quiet debut.
Tom: Like Phil said, this new team has been lurking around in some form or fashion. They used to work with Chase Austin… the owner, Cohen has been trying to break in for some time.
Amy: I don’t think a new team can succeed though. Unfortunately, now it takes a _huge_ personal, monetary investment of an owner or a major sponsor, which isn’t likely unless it’s a big name in the car (whether they deserve to be there or not). Or, if the driver brings money, like a Menard or a Townley.
Summer: My answer is no, they can’t succeed without the right sponsor / driver. I doubt Xxxtreme lasts.
Phil: My best guess is that Reutimann can get the No. 44 in the field for Sunday.  Beyond that is anyone’s guess.  It looks like they might start and park.
Mike N.: An upstart team will have an extremely difficult time making it in the sport. Especially starting out at the Cup level. Turner might have a shot in another year or two. Starting at the Cup level, you have almost zero chance.
Amy: That’s sad if you think about it. The big teams all started as single-car teams and were able to work their way up; in doing so, they priced everyone else out of the game.
Summer: As far as what NASCAR can do about it, I’m not really sure. I guess they could place caps on the other teams, but they’re good enough to find ways to work around anything.
Mike N.: You still need to start in the lesser series and work your way up. I think it is a bad idea if any knucklehead can build a car and immediately come in and compete with established teams. Teams need to do it like Turner is. Run Trucks, run Nationwide, develop the talent pool and knowledge base and then work on making Cup starts.
Amy: What NASCAR could do is what they could do for the struggling smaller teams already in the sport: raise purses and funnel sponsors to teams instead of keeping them all to themselves as the Official Whatever.
Phil: That would help things.
Amy: In the late 1990s, there were a number of smaller teams coming in and doing OK. Or mechanical guys like Andy Petree taking control of them, a strategy that could never work now. That was one thing that made the sport popular back then… the sport was accessible and the underdog wasn’t so beat down that they never had a chance to show any bite.
Tom: I think the issue with the small teams is that right now, the model has changed. No one has gone out there and shown that a team with limited resources can contend at any track other than restrictor plates and road courses. Plus, the push to spend is so wide the purse money for 10th doesn’t cover expenses. So… the small teams start and park, and it becomes so profitable others come in and want to jump on the bandwagon.
Mike N.: I think the issue right now is that you can’t build a car and run it competitively for under 15 million dollars.
Amy: That’s correct, Mike.
Phil: It’s near impossible to do it without some kind of alliance with a bigger team.
Mike N.: Welcome to big time auto racing. If you look at the teams that win in IndyCar, the teams that win in World of Outlaws, the teams that win in World Rally Cross, the teams that win in Late Models… it’s all the same. If you don’t have the big budget, you’re not winning consistently.
Tom: I still think start-and-park doesn’t help. It’s like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden… everyone is taking it.

Can a small team with limited funding find success in the Sprint Cup Series today? Teams like this Tommy Baldwin entry have struggled to get off the ground in recent years.

Amy: I disagree with that for the most part, Tom.  Very few teams _want_ to start and park, but realize quickly that it may be their only option many weeks. There are a couple that would S&P no matter what, but for the most part, they want to race and are hoping that by at least being there, they might attract some money.
Tom: But I think the purses leave them with little to no encouragement to go out and race.
Mike N.: That is the same at the front of the pack, too Tom. You can’t go out and race and kill your chance of winning the big check at the banquet at the end of the year. If they’d take the prize fund money and pay it out all year, you’d see more teams and better racing.
Amy: I don’t think it’s that way at all, Tom, for the majority.  They don’t go out and race because they can’t afford to go out and race, not just because they want to collect a paltry purse and be hated and ridiculed by every member of the media and the fans.
Mike N.: Most members of the media don’t give a rat’s you-know-what about the teams finishing outside of the top 20.
Summer: Amy, I agree with you. I know there are some team owners who are just fine starting and parking, but none of the crewmembers or drivers do.
Tom: I remember being told by someone on Cale Yarborough’s team, from the ’90s in the past they were able to “target” certain tracks with their sponsorship money where they knew they’d be good. Where a good driver and a better crew chief could overcome any engineering or handling advantages from the bigger teams. But now, it’s such a filter down effect. There’s like four teams providing chassis and engines, and engineering and wind tunnels play such a big part in success — even the most innovative crew chief and most talented driver can’t compete in middle class equipment without the top teams’ help.
Phil: Well, if Xxxtreme Motorsports can qualify on speed Friday, I think Sunday will be a toughy for them.  If they do choose to race, just finishing without anything breaking will be an accomplishment, although Reutimann would want more than that.
Tom: Ugh. NASCAR has become Formula 1 — there are clear tiers of where you finish and it’s almost predictable on any given Sunday.
Mike N.: Almost predictable? You can name 18 of the top 20 before they drop the rag every week Tom. The only reason you miss two is mechanical issues.
Amy: I don’t think it’s quite _that_ bad, but it is too predictable.

*Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing announced late last week they’ll switch from Earnhardt Childress engines to Hendrick power in 2013.  Will that make a difference in the team’s performance or are the problems deeper than horsepower?*

Amy: I don’t see it being a big difference… engines are the least of their worries, really.
Summer: I agree with you, Amy. It won’t change anything.
Tom: Weren’t we just talking about the filter down effect? EGR and Hendrick working together… we might as well just call NASCAR teams Ford, Chevy, and Toyota. There’s so little difference now between them.
Mike N.: The EGR problems are deeper than horsepower, although I have to think it is at least part of it. It isn’t like ECR engines are at the top of the point standings.
Phil: Yeah, their power was never really an issue, although Ganassi thought it was. The team has no luck whatsoever, especially Montoya.
Mike N.: The truly sad thing that I don’t know if people are looking at is the fact that a team named Earnhardt is turning its back on Richard Childress. I guarantee there is someone in heaven shaking his head right now.
Tom: That’s a great point, Mike. I also think, in the case of EGR it’s if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Remember, Chris Heroy who’s a former Hendrick engineer is crew chief for Juan Pablo Montoya. HMS is so strong right now this deal is one other way to tap into their resources, even if it’s just restricted to engines.
Amy: Earnhardt Childress engines are the only piece of the Earnhardt empire that he’d approve of, Mike.
Mike N.: Where are the RCR cars in the point standings?
Phil: 11th (Harvick), 16th (Menard) and 19th (Jeff Burton).
Mike N.: McMurray 20th, Montoya 22nd. Not too much difference.
Tom: Which is why you make the change. SHR has had a very profitable relationship with Hendrick; for Ganassi, though, their chassis continue to be a level below. As are their drivers.
Amy: So EGR doesn’t have the chassis to compete, nor the people.  Changing engines won’t change that. RCR’s issues are deeper than that, too.  Just look at the personnel changes. I think there are much bigger fish to fry there, like direction.
Mike N.: EGR is still regrouping after the switch away from Steve Hmiel. It has been a total change in mindset over there and that isn’t something you can do overnight.
Amy: Right. Both teams need to decide on and develop a direction forward before they can worry about who they lease engines from.
Mike N.: I think they should have done better by the end of the year, but it is still a work in progress changing the entire methodology of bringing the cars to the track.
Tom: I think it’s all behind the scenes stuff, too. Luke Lambert, going over to Jeff Burton at RCR is a dynamic crew chief. I think “Bono” Manion has proven to be good with McMurray in the past. It’s all about finding speed in the cars behind the scenes.
Phil: Yes. Sounds like they’ve been coming to the track off a bit and fighting an uphill battle all year.  Hard to do much if that’s the case.
Amy: I think part of the RCR issue was buying up Harvick’s NNS and Truck teams and shifting so much focus to those programs. EGR is just behind in about every way.  If they work with Hendrick in more ways than just engines, in a way more similar to what Stewart-Haas does they could see some real results.
Mike N.: And let’s be real. Does anyone think Jeff Burton can be a championship-level driver anymore? I think he is a great guy, and I love listening to him and asking him questions. But he really hasn’t been a threat for a win in a while.
Tom: Mike, you’re wrong with Lambert there. I think Burton makes the Chase next season. And I’m not kidding.
Summer: No way.
Tom: Summer, I’m very confident. Those two were dynamite together!
Mike N.: If he does, he makes it without winning a race.
Amy: I think if Burton was more than a lame duck afterthought for Childress he could still win some races.
Phil: Lambert and Burton will be quite interesting next year.
Tom: OK, ready for the stat that will kill you guys? EGR hasn’t had a top-5 finish since Jamie McMurray, Bristol, August 2011. _That’s_ how long it’s been; it was so amazing to me “I actually wrote about it this week.”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/42021
Amy: Look, we all know that barring something major, Burton has one year left at RCR before his ride is handed off to Austin Dillon.  He’s the last thing on Childress’ mind right now.
Summer: That’s why I feel the way I do. Burton isn’t really important to the organization anymore.
Tom: But as for EGR… Ganassi has made a clear commitment to the drivers here, which is interesting. He refuses to part ways with either one and keeps thinking everything else is the problem. I think we all agree that’s the case… however, how many more years can you wait before Montoya breaks through on an oval? He’s not popular inside the garage and he’s been irrelevant for most of the past three seasons. McMurray? Invisible for two now. At some point, you’re going to have to consider making a change.
Amy: Tom, I think that kind of commitment is important in moving the organization forward.
Tom: Do you know it’s been six years with the team when it comes to Montoya though, Amy? That’s a long, long time.
Summer: Montoya might eventually win on an oval because occasionally he’ll have a good run. So will McMurray. But those two will never be consistently good. Eventually, you have to make a decision. At some point, being optimistic quits being a strategy.
Amy: Realistically, who is Ganassi going to get who is better?  And in order to make gains, you have to make them around a driver.
Summer: How about some of these Nationwide Series guys?
Phil: Well, let’s see.  Austin Dillon will be in a RCR car, so he’s out.  Elliott Sadler, perhaps?
Tom: Or a James Buescher, a Cole Whitt. Allmendinger even. Try _someone._ For Montoya, at some point, you have to look at the overall results. One Chase appearance, two wins — zero on ovals — and just 20 top-5 finishes. That’s an _average_ of about three a year. Less than 1,000 laps led, combined. I mean, if we’re going to knock Danica, all the time when does Montoya go under the microscope?
Amy: Here’s the thing, and I get it to a degree.  Montoya is one of the finest racecar drivers in the world.  I think Ganassi keeps seeing it as if they could just get that _one_ thing to click, he’d win races.  They could be right… who knows? Would I have hung onto Montoya that long?  Probably not.  But I get the thinking.
Tom: At least McMurray is a sponsor’s dream. Montoya… can make a sponsor scream.
Phil: Yeah, Montoya can get grating.  Also had some confrontations with the media when he was in F1.
Summer: Oh, not so fast. Who was been on TV screens more often — Montoya or McMurray? Good or bad, publicity is publicity.
Mike N.: The thing with Montoya is that you still get the maximum effort all of the time. McMurray will give you the effort if he feels like it. If he doesn’t wake up feeling it on race day, forget it, he’s just mailing it in. I’m amazed Ganassi still puts up with that.
Amy: McMurray…I think he truly hit the top of his ability in his first stint with Ganassi. Everyone thought the equipment was holding him back, but it never really was. McMurray was topped out.
Summer: I don’t get that sense McMurray’s “mailing it in.” If 2010 showed us anything about McMurray, it’s that he’s passionate.
Tom: Summer, I agree. McMurray gets a bad rap… I think he and “Bono” do have chemistry but have struggled to find the engineering needed to compete.
Amy: I disagree with that assessment of McMurray, too.  I don’t think he’s lazy.  I do think that if his car isn’t where he needs it, he’s lost.  He doesn’t know how to make it better, and can’t convey how to make it better to his team, so they fold.
Mike N.: I didn’t say he’s lazy. He just doesn’t give maximum effort every time out. I’ve heard it from several people who worked with him in the past.
Phil: In other words, he’s Hut Stricklin.  That’s how Bobby Allison described him in Peter Golenbock’s book.
Tom: I will say EGR, for all their success on the IndyCar side is one of the more puzzling NASCAR mysteries of the last few years. And EGR fired almost everyone in the offseason to start fresh. If that was going to work, if there was going to be chemistry with the newbies you would have seen it by now.
Phil: Well, I guess a bunch of dudes are getting fired again once the season ends, then.
Mike N.: I’m pretty sure you’re right Phil. I think there is going to be a blood-letting at EGR after Homestead.
Amy: I still think horsepower isn’t going to magically fix anything.  They need the people and the long-term plan in place first, then they can go after specific parts and pieces.
Tom: There has to be. I don’t know how Heroy can survive if they keep Montoya… clear step backwards with chemistry. I think they may split up “Bono” and McMurray, too, even though I disagree.

*Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin exchanged pit road slams and verbal barbs after Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. Who was in the right on the conflict, which stemmed from an earlier on-track incident, and does either driver deserve a penalty for his conduct?*

Phil: I’m not sure.  If anyone gets penalized, it’s probably Hamlin for trying to stuff Dillon in the wall entering pit road.
Amy: Disagree. They both should be penalized because of the pit road thing.  NASCAR has not tolerated that in the past, and with good reason.
Mike N.: Nobody deserves a penalty. The sport doesn’t have enough passion as there is. That said, nobody is in the right or wrong in these things. I will say one thing. Denny Hamlin is never going to have an RCR ride.
Summer: I agree with Mike. No penalty.

Was Austin Dillon driving over his head at Texas, or was Denny Hamlin just picking on the little guys in the Nationwide Series?

Amy: OK, I feel weird saying this, because 99.9% of the time I’m going to stand up for the NNS regular… but Hamlin was in the right here. The only issue I have on his part is the pit road slamming.
Summer: Well, the only people I saw that disagreed with what Hamlin said were RCR fans. So that tells me that Dillon has some lessons to learn.
Tom: I’m playing Switzerland on this one. Neutral except for the fact no one should be penalized… a “minor” case of emotions boiling over.
Amy: Tom, it’s no different than what Kurt Busch did at Darlington.  Too many people without roll cages on pit road after the race. NASCAR needs to be consistent, and to this point they generally have been with post-race pit road incidents. Dillon went after Hamlin on pit road first.  He’s just as guilty as Hamlin on this one.
Tom: I feel it’s totally different. The contact happened so much further up pit road… they weren’t even past the commitment cone for most of it. Much more controlled than Busch-Harvick. Also, you just can’t penalize a guy running for the Nationwide championship like that. Passion is what NASCAR is all about.
Amy: I don’t think it’s different, Tom.  It was on pit road.  It was post-race.  Period.  Black and white.  Doesn’t matter where on pit road or how it feels.
Mike N.: Technically, it was before the commitment cone so it wasn’t on pit road.
Summer: I don’t think they need the penalty and I don’t mind NASCAR penalizing based on severity. That makes it the driver’s choice to risk it knowing that there might be consequences.
Amy: NASCAR isn’t going to penalize him, they’ve pretty much proven that when they didn’t take points for the second car infraction in two weeks. Does NASCAR want a new Earnhardt so badly that they are blinded to everything but the owner’s name and the number on the door?  I can’t say, but I do understand why some fans feel that way.
Phil: If Hamlin’s quotes are to be believed, Austin’s some kind of idiot who only got his ride because he’s Childress’ grandson.
Tom: Which is silly. Anyone can see the kid can race.
Summer: I think Hamlin phrased it wrong. He would have been more prone to say “He’s entitled _because_ of his last name.” I think even Hamlin knows that Dillon has talent, but he said it wrong.
Amy: I don’t agree with that part, Phil, but I do agree that Dillon has been a little overaggressive at times. He’s been driving over his head a little too often for my taste in the second half of the season.  I don’t disagree with Hamlin’s comments about the number on his door.  Dillon is a good driver, but he will never be Dale Earnhardt.
Phil: If NASCAR’s looking for another Earnhardt, Austin Dillon is not that guy.  In fact, I doubt “another Earnhardt” could get into NASCAR and compete for wins at this point.
Mike N.: Nope. Now if they did penalize both drivers, I would understand because it didn’t happen between the flags. But I would not like the precedent that a driver who is not running for points in a series can come in and take a driver out of the title hunt.
Amy: He didn’t take him out of the title hunt, Mike.  If there’s a penalty, Dillon will have taken _himself_ out. Dillon was driving over his head at a couple of points in the race and went after Hamlin. The original incident was Dillon’s fault as well, so he had no call giving Hamlin a donut.
Mike N.: Hamlin ran him into the wall after Dillon came up and gave him a donut on the cool down lap. Dillon didn’t wreck him. Hamlin wrecked Dillon. Dillon gave him a donut to “voice” his displeasure. Hamlin caused far more damage to Dillon’s car than Dillon caused to Hamlin’s.
Phil: You could argue that everyone was racing over their heads on the final restart.  I’m surprised that only Brian Scott ended up in the wall (again).
Amy: Well, Dillon hit Hamlin on pit road.  Regardless of what Hamlin did next, Dillon broke a NASCAR rule.
Tom: It was before the commitment cone. To me, that’s not pit road.
Phil: I agree with Tom.  That was on the apron, but not quite on pit road yet.  Still didn’t need to happen.
Mike N.: He wasn’t on pit road Amy. Look for the cone. And he didn’t do anything that doesn’t happen 100 times throughout the season when people give donuts after wins. Or after “altercations”. He didn’t wreck him.
Amy: The way I’ve seen him driving the last few months, Dillon needed a lesson, and Hamlin gave him one… after he started the whole thing himself.  Nobody else to blame. If Dillon doesn’t get into Hamlin, they both pull in and nothing further happens.
Mike N.: Nah, there would be much yelling and finger pointing on pit road. And someone would be called a big dummy and someone else would question someone’s momma’s virtue.
Tom: I don’t think Dillon needed a “lesson.” I think he’s like any young driver up and coming in the sport… he’s going to make his mistakes.  He’s also running for a championship. If Ron Hornaday deserved a certain amount of respect, running for his title last year at Texas so should Dillon when he goes for his in the Nationwide Series.
Amy: Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. are going for a title and neither of them is driving over his head… or causing the on-track issues that Dillon has recently. Dillon needs his head deflated a couple sizes.  I think he’s a nice kid and a decent driver, but he needs to learn how to respect others.
Summer: I agree. Austin Dillon needs to get his ego in check.

*Predictions for Phoenix?*

Phil: I’ll go with Kasey Kahne.
Mike N.: Jimmie Johnson. Phew, got it in before anyone else.
Summer: Can I pick Tony Stewart without anyone laughing at me?
Phil: Go ahead, Summer.
Tom: You know what? I’m going to go with Kyle Busch. He was OK in the Spring and we always have that one race a non-Chaser wins. He’s been knocking on the door.
Amy: I say Denny Hamlin puts an end to Jimmie Johnson’s win streak.
Tom: No way Denny wins. Are you kidding me? Sorry Amy, that’s the worst prediction I’ve seen this year. I wasn’t sure who was driving at Texas in the No. 11 car: Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh, a zombie or a combination thereof. They are playing out the string and the momentum balloon is totally deflated.
Mike N.: Yes Tom, but they did test the 2013 car there, so they have recent laps on the track.
Tom: Eh, I think Denny’s done. Big surprise will be Keselowski outpoints Johnson. The No. 2 car is the one who will use that edge based on that 2013 testing.
Amy: Three drivers have a better average finish than Hamlin at the track.  One of them has the law of averages against him, one has an outside shot but hasn’t won in three years, and the third couldn’t catch a break if it bit him in the ass, so yeah, Hamlin.

*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

AAA Texas 500

*Writer* *Pick* *Finishing Position* *Points*
Amy Henderson Clint Bowyer 6th 1
Phil Allaway Aric Almirola 15th 0
Summer Bedgood Matt Kenseth 4th 3
Kevin Rutherford Jimmie Johnson 1st 5

*Points Standings*

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Amy Henderson 46 31 2 *12* *24*
Mike Neff 40 -6 27 *4* 10 17
Kevin Rutherford 40 -6 24 3 *12* 16
Phil Allaway 29 -17 32 1 8 17
Matt Stallknecht 10 -36 2 2 2 2
Tom Bowles 11 -35 6 2 3 3
Summer Bedgood 6 -40 8 0 3 4
Rick Lunkenheimer 5 -41 1 1 1 1
Huston Ladner 3 -43 1 0 1 1
Beth Lunkenheimer 2 -44 19 1 2 5
Tony Lumbis 1 -45 1 0 0 1
Jeff Meyer 0 -46 1 0 0 0
Jesse Medford -2 -48 1 0 0 0
Vito Pugliese -2 -48 1 0 0 0

*Connect with Amy!*

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

*Connect with Phil!*

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

*Connect with Summer!*

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

*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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