Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: An Overlooked Rule, NASCAR Hendrick Trivia, And Bowyer’s Role

*We certainly had a situation at Martinsville on Sunday. David Reutimann limped around late in the race, bringing out a caution rather then dropping immediately to pit road and on the restart, Clint Bowyer took the race leaders three-wide going into Turn 1 with disastrous – and predictable – results. Who’s really to blame for the wild ending?*

Phil: I’m not completely comfortable blaming Reutimann for what happened. Martinsville’s like a conveyor belt on a long run. It was legitimately tough to get onto pit road. As for the restart, that happens at Martinsville with a GWC. You remember that race last year, right?
Amy: For me, the blame comes easy; NASCAR and their ridiculous top-35 rule. There will be more on that later, but nobody should be in the position Reutimann was in, needing those extra laps for one point.

Mirror Driving: Adjusting Auto Club, Points vs. Wins And Martinsville Maniacs

*The crowd at Fontana was solid this past weekend but the racing? And the ratings? That left something to be desired. After all the talk about Bristol, should this track be next on the list to be torn up and redone?*

Amy: Next? It should be first on the list. Bristol is fine the way it is. Fontana should be blown up and made _into_ a Bristol.
Kevin: I couldn’t care less about Fontana, and haven’t for quite a few years now. I always kind of dread the week NASCAR goes to the place because the races just tend to be so yawn-worthy. Go ahead and mess with the track if you want… but I don’t think it’s going to do much.

Mirror Driving: Michael’s Miracle, Nationwide Normalcy And NASCAR Fan Protection

*With all three teams finishing in the top 5 at Bristol and both full-time drivers in the top 10 of Sprint Cup points, Michael Waltrip Racing is off to a stellar start in 2012. Can they sustain it and establish themselves among the sport’s elite teams?*

Kevin: I think so. They may not be among the elite at year’s end, but I think we’re going to see them as a better team than we have in the past.
Amy: I’m not sure MWR can sustain it at the level it is now, but Truex has been steadily improving for months. I think they can put either him or Bowyer in the Chase, but not both.

Mirror Driving: Crew Chief Competitions, Fuel Fixes And The Biff? Really?

*Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may have grabbed most of the headlines on Sunday, but Greg Biffle was the driver snagging his third straight top-5 finish and also taking over the points lead. Can Biffle be a “real deal” contender all year long, or does he run too much in the shadow of his Roush Fenway teammates to stay up there over the long run?*

Kevin: The way Roush Fenway cars are running this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Biffle stays up there. He and that whole team have got great momentum so far.
Amy: I think Biffle is certainly talented enough, but he is kind of the forgotten man at RFR.

Mirror Driving: Defining Dodge, Pondering Penalties and Does Winning Breed Winning?

*The big news of the weekend happened off the track, with Penske Racing announcing a switch to Fords for the 2013 season. How will the change impact Penske along with the other Ford teams… and is there a future for Dodge in NASCAR?*

Beth: Well, Robby Gordon is their future come 2013…you do the math.
Phil: If Dodge wants there to be a future, there will be one. However, I think they’re in a situation where they have to drive up to Joey Arrington’s engine shop with a truckload of money.

Mirror Driving: What To Take To Phoenix, NASCAR’s Weeknight Future And “Minor” Support

*The Sprint Cup teams head for Phoenix after a memorable Daytona Speedweeks. What lessons learned at Daytona will NASCAR, teams, and fans need to pay attention to going forward with the 2012 season?*

Mike N.: Jet dryers carry 200 gallons of fuel.
Amy: And jet fuel fires are hard to put out.
Mike N.: Speedways can patch a surface 8,472,985 times faster than the DOT.

Mirror Driving: Two-Pack Racing, Penalties at Daytona and Political Correctness

*The season kicked off with a literal bang in Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout. Only half of the 25-car field completed the race and only 10 cars finished on the lead lap. Did we learn anything from that race about what we can expect on Sunday, and is NASCAR’s new rules package a good one or a dud?*

Amy: We learned that a lot of good cars are going to get taken out in wrecks not of their doing.
Mike N.: We learned that the best drivers in the world forgot how to race at a plate track without pushing each other around. The new rules package is a good one if you don’t like tandem racing and like to see lots of equipment torn up. Not so good if you like to see everyone finish the race…

Mirror Driving: Danica’s Surprise, Judging Underdogs & More

*Danica Patrick announced she’ll run the Coca-Cola 600, not the Indy 500 as part of the Sprint Cup Media tour this week. Bad “business decision” for the former open-wheeler? Or the right move for someone whose long-term decision is to focus on stock car racing? Most importantly… is the fact these open-wheelers are no longer willing to try the double bad for racing in general?*

Bryan: Sure, it’s the right decision… if she was ready for Cup. Danica hasn’t even run a full Nationwide season and we’re already talking starts in the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600?
Tom: I know it’s conspiracy theory-esque, but I almost thought this decision was intentional by those mysterious “business people.” NASCAR knows open-wheel is on its knees right now at a critical time… and now, the most marketable star won’t be within 500 miles of Indy the whole month of May.

Mirror Driving: Judging NASCAR Silly Season, Radio Silence And More

*Several Sprint Cup drivers made postseason moves recently, with Kurt Busch jumping to the Phoenix Racing No. 51, A.J. Allmendinger to the No. 22 at Penske, and Aric Almirola reportedly to the No. 43 at Richard Petty Motorsports.  There were also several changes in the Nationwide Series… so which driver made the best move, and why?*

Mike N.: I’d have to say, of those three, Allmendinger made the best move. He’s going to be in a proven, race-winning machine. If the ‘Dinger doesn’t get it done there, he’s got no one left to blame but himself.

Mirror Driving: Rebuilding Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Penske, And…

*Mike Ford was removed from his crew chief post at Joe Gibbs Racing Tuesday after a disappointing season. Will this put Denny Hamlin back into title contention after a miserable 2011, and who’s the best candidate to replace him?*

Tom: My only complaint with the Ford firing is that it didn’t happen sooner. JGR should have gotten a head start with someone new during the Chase. Everybody knew, by the middle of 2011 that duo wasn’t working out. The fact they created momentum over the final few races, actually battling back to ninth in points after sitting dead last wound up a total waste of much time.
Phil: Exactly, Tom. With all the discussion about Mike Ford since his stupid comments about having the title won last year, you’d think this would have happened 4 months ago.

Mirror Driving: Validating The Chase, Grubb’s Departure And Raining On Championships

*The season-ending race at Homestead had plenty of excitement, ending in the first ever championship points tie. But in a non-Chase situation, under this system Carl Edwards would have clinched the title at Phoenix, not Tony Stewart, eliminating the battle fans saw on Sunday. So did 2011 validate the Chase?*

Amy: Not really, although I think to NASCAR it will. Unfortunately, to those of us who want to see it gone, this will just be the big “we told you so.”
Phil: That sounds about right. A bunch of people will claim that this will validate the whole system.

Mirror Driving: A Worthy Champ, Villainous Vickers and Series Identities

*The Sprint Cup title comes down to just two drivers at Homestead, three points between them. Does this mean that the new points system did what it was supposed to, or was it just a lucky break?*

Phil: I’d argue that it’s a lucky break. I don’t think anyone would have predicted the 10th-place guy at the start of the Chase battling for the title.
Tom: More of a lucky break than anything else. To be honest, it’s not too much different than the old system. Not enough points for winning, consistency rules… only two of the 12 drivers are eligible for the title. We’ve been in situations where five, six drivers have been eligible.

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