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Nascar at Chicagoland “After Chatter”: Mark Martin, Double-file Restarts and the Race for the Chase

Mark Martin clearly had the strongest car Saturday night at Chicagoland and he managed to pull off the victory even though a couple of late race cautions and double-file restarts could have changed the final outcome. Mark pulled away from a hard charging Jeff Gordon as the #24 battled Kasey Kahne in the closing laps and took his fourth victory of the 2009 season. Not bad for an “old guy” that was semi-retired a year ago.

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Now, that being said, will Mark Martin make the Chase this year or will he be left just outside the top twelve? It is a question that even Mark Martin doesn’t want to have to keep answering every week. He would much rather have a little more cushion and a lot more breathing room than bouncing in and out of the top twelve spots for the Chase.

If anything can be said for his performance this year it is that he has been at the top, or at the bottom, of the list at the end of a race this season. From ‘just a fan’s view”, it seems he would be leading in the points if it weren’t for some off and on bad luck hounding him and his #5 team this year. He has been performing extremely well  but has had some inconsistent finishes that have put him further back in the standings and in and out of being in of the top 12 for the Chase. Hopefully he has put most of that bad luck stuff behind him and will continue to climb in the standings.

Needless to say, the top three positions are pretty much locked into the Chase this year unless something really unexpectedly disastrous and drastic happens to Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson. They do have a slight cushion of points protecting their positions, but in Nascar, anything can (and sometimes does) happen. (I don’t expect it to happen, but I definitely never rule anything out in Nascar, just because it’s Nascar.)

The Race for the Chase, (maybe I should say, the race for getting into the Chase), is a whole different situation in positions four through twelve, especially when we look at sixth to fourteenth. That is a pretty tight race between some very good teams and there are some lurking just outside the top twelve waiting for somebody to run into that string of bad luck.

As an obvious example, take Mark Martin’s season so far. He has run strong all year and won four races, yet he is only eleven points ahead of thirteenth place Greg Biffle. Both of them have run strong and also struggled along the way. Mark’s only hope is to keep finishing consistently near the front in the seven races to come. If not, he will be sweating it out right down to Richmond and though he says he’s having fun, it is this fan’s opinion, he would rather be having that fun without the added stress of possibly not making the Chase.

The double-file restart has added a completely new dimension to the Cup races. As a fan, I really like the drama it adds to the end of the races. Also as a fan, I understand how some of the drivers don’t like it.

In races before the double file restarts in Cup, the leader of the race had the possibility of pulling away on a restart because of the lap-cars being on the inside line. With them there, the leader had more of an advantage by using the lap-cars to shield himself from those running behind him. Now, the person running second starts right beside him and those running third, fourth, fifth (etc), start right behind him. No longer does the leader have a very real advantage over the rest of the top runners in a race. It becomes anybody’s race, (much to many fans delight), and it becomes more of a dash to the checkered flag, no holds barred. (It definitely gives a whole new meaning to the phrase everyone loves to hate, “shoot-out style”.)

I can’t say when the person I would like to see win is running out front that I like to see the caution flag fly. I know it is quite likely going to make a very dramatic finish out of what could have been a breakaway. But as a fan, and my guy is running a few seconds and places back, I do like the yellow coming out. It absolutely gives an opportunity for my favorite to take the victory.

When all is said and done, I think it all comes down to how someone is affected by the outcome of the double-file restart. If they fair well, they love it; if it takes a top place finish away from them, they hate it, (and I can’t blame them.) It reminds me of an old saying about facing every day in life … “Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes … the bear gets you.”

For a year that was supposed to be so questionable because of the economy and other situations, it has turned out to be pretty interesting and exciting. I think it has been one of the most interesting years for Nascar in a long time. I can truly say I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the races this year, (well … except maybe for the rainouts … but then I never much cared for them anyway … unless my guy won.)

See ya next time …


(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© July 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.