Once again the field lines up according to points this weekend so it’s pretty obvious the qualifying times won’t matter because they don’t exist. Fortunately for Tony Stewart, he crashed his car into the wall before the qualifying so by the rules, he still gets to start from the pole position. That may or may not prove to be a good thing for him and the rest of the field.
I think the two practices on Saturday prove who is running the strongest and may give us a glimpse of who may take the checkered flag on Sunday but the most important things to consider are the fastest multiple lap times; not the fastest lap time. Oh, and just one more thought on this part; what changes will the crew chiefs make before the race starts tomorrow? In other words, who is going to be unexpectedly quicker right out of the box because of those changes? That could make a big difference.
I think I’m looking forward to this race a little more than usual because of all the uncertainty. No qualifying, cars running fast times that usually don’t show up at the top of the charts and the double-file restarts for the first time on a shorter track (even though I know this is not a short track.)
This could prove to be a race at the Magic Mile like none in the recent past and I know you’ve heard me say this a lot this year, but, I’m not sure who is going to win it. I don’t know if it is going to be a runaway by a couple of cars starting up front after the first part of the race or if the real drama is going to be nearer the end of the race. One thing I am sure of though; part of the credit for the win will go to the crews and their pit stops, the crew chief and his strategy and, of course, when and where the yellow flags fall in the race.
So, what do you think? Is this the week where Richard Petty Motorsports shows that their strong showing at Infineon was no fluke? I don’t know but it is a very good possibility. Reed Sorenson was fastest in the second practice session and was third fastest in the final practice. That makes it look like he could have a good run tomorrow (and who knows about the rest of the RPM teams.)
This could also be the week that Richard Childress Racing breaks into the win column. RCR has had a very lean time in Cup over the last couple of years in particular. Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears both performed well in the practices today and, if they catch a break or two, (and that is a pretty big ‘IF’), either one of them could end up in Victory Lane. Jeff Burton could break out of the box at any time and pull off a good finish this weekend. With the way things have gone this year, you just never know, Kevin Harvick could turn it all around at NHMS.
Martin Truex Jr and Juan Pablo Montoya both looked good and were fast in the practices and Montoya has just broken into the top 12 for the Chase after his finish at Infineon. That puts them both in the mix for being contenders on Sunday and everyone knows that the EGR teams would definitely like to take home a victory sooner than later.
I just can’t say that anybody really sticks out in my mind as ‘THE’ winner this weekend. There are a lot of possibilities, though. Just looking at the lap times for the last practice tells just how close the field is. If we consider the fastest recorded times for all 43 starters, we see some interesting facts. The lap times are separated by a little over a second for all 43, BUT, if we look at the top 20 spots there is less than a quarter of a second separating them. That could mean it is going to be hard to pass on a consistent basis for those starting in the rear. With this being just a 301 mile race, those starting out front are going to have their hands full with those top ten or twenty behind them. If they aren’t happy with the way their cars are handling near the start of the race, they won’t have a lot of time to make adjustments to them.
This is where it gets difficult for this fan, because it is hard to choose between those you would like to see win and the ones that actually can win. I really try hard to not play favorites, (even though I do have them), and I do try to weigh the stats to see who really stacks up as the possible winner. This week is pretty difficult for this fan to choose a winner but I have to try.
There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to picking a winner for Sunday’s race. I see some younger drivers looking awfully good at the Magic Mile, but I’m gonna have to go with some drivers that have been around longer, you know, they’re more … uh … mature(?) Yeh, that’s right, more experienced in calmly getting to the front at the right time … in time to take the checkered flag ahead of the rest.
So who will it be? I’m really glad you asked that question ’cause I’m just not sure. I think it is going to be a dramatic finish and I do think the top five is going to be chock full of former Cup Champions. I mean, just look at how many are in the top ten starting positions; there are five and some of them are multiple Cup champs. Hey, it could be anyone of them, but I’m gong to pick Jeff Gordon to get back on the winning track this week. He will probably be closely followed by Tony Stewart, Kurt Bush, Jimmy Johnson, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle.
It doesn’t really matter, but the one that wins this weekend is going to have to work for it. It’s just not going to be handed to him on a platter.
See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© June 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman