The Chase begins at Loudon, NH and though the pressure is off in some ways, it is just beginning in others. All of the teams in the top twelve are breathing a little easier this weekend than they did last weekend because, the worst they can finish is twelfth place. This weekend will be like starting a new season and no matter what, for the next ten weeks “one race does not a season make.”
It is this fan’s opinion that all of the teams are looking to come away from NHIS with momentum for the next race. The challenge as I see it is, will it be one of the usual teams or someone totally unexpected that drives into Victory Lane at the end of the Sylvania 300. The way I see it, it could go either way.
If we just look at the performance during the practices and the qualifying, Juan Montoya could be awfully hard to beat Sunday afternoon. He has been extremely strong since the first practice and if he continues on the same path, he could lead this race from the first lap to the last. Now, I’m not saying he will, I’m just saying it is possible.
Even as I say that, I can honestly say there are about six or seven others that have a chance to take that opportunity away from the 42 team. It could easily be Martin Truex Jr that drives past Montoya and wins. He has also been strong so far all weekend and has been showing some real strength over the last several weeks. He just needs a consistent performance and it could prove to be the demise of Montoya’s chance for victory.
With the way things have been going for the Hendrick teams this year, I think it would be a little short-sighted to rule any of them out, (and that includes Dale Jr.) They didn’t actually perform that poorly since unloading off the trucks and I’m just not sure they’ve shown all they have yet. I do know Jeff Gordon is hungry for a victory along with his crew chief, Steve Letarte. Don’t forget they could very well have been the victors in the June race that was shortened by rain and Steve Letarte thinks he has something to prove to the rest of the field.
I won’t spend a lot of time talking about all of the Hendrick teams, even though there is a lot to talk about this year. Jimmy Johnson and crew chief, Chad Knaus, could break out of their minor slump and do what they are known for in the last ten races of the season lately, and that’s win!
Mark Martin can never be ruled out and his crew chief Allan Gustafson would like nothing better than to put him in Victory Lane this weekend and at the head table at the Sprint Cup banquet. If they do manage to go all the way to the head table, it will be an amazing feel-good moment for almost all of Nascar. (I only say it that way because there’s always somebody that doesn’t like anything.)
I know it would be a long shot, but I do know Dale Jr can break into the win column this weekend. We all know he has the equipment to win with, I just think it is a matter of finding his comfort level. Once they do that as a team, look out! It could be the start of something big for the #88 Hendrick team.
We won’t even talk about all of the ones that would be completely unexpected winners this weekend but there are those that just have to be pointed out. Kurt Bush, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and even Clint Bowyer are all running good enough to win the Sylvania 300. All but two of the ones I just mentioned are in the top twelve in points and any one of them could win.
I’m just not sure whether it will be one of the above mentioned teams or someone totally unexpected; there’s just no way to be certain because this is Nascar and, as I’ve said and has been proven many times before, “Anything can happen.”
One thing is certain for this weekend… Nascar Sprint Cup teams plan to race in New Hampshire on Sunday and it is the first race of the Chase for the 2009 season. Judging from the practice sessions and the qualifying there is definitely a great possibility of some surprises. Taking all of that into consideration, this fan’s view says it is anybody’s guess what will happen and who will come away from Loudon with some momentum for next week.
See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© September 19, 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman