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Nascar at Fontana: Who Will Be Leading the Chase After The Pepsi 500?

Nascar returns to Fontana, California this Sunday afternoon for race 4 of the Chase and the big questions still remain, “Who will be leading the Chase after the Pepsi 500 is over and how much will the order of the top twelve Chasers be shaken up?” After last week’s tightening of the points battle in the top twelve, many Nascar fans are looking to the California race to see the standings tighten up even more.

With the hope of either moving up in the points or extending their leads over the other Chasers, all of the teams from third to twelfth are looking to upset the cart this weekend.

Denny Hamlin was the first to put pressure on the rest of the field by taking the pole position for the start of the Pepsi 500. If the #11 JGR FedEx Toyota can keep that pressure up throughout race 4 of the Chase, he could very well take home the trophy from this weekend’s race and carry a bit of momentum into next week at Charlotte. Denny did look strong, especially in qualifying, and could be tough to beat this weekend.

Taking all of that into consideration, and if you’ve been reading or listening to “Just A Fan’s View” throughout the season, you know I don’t put much stock in qualifying times determining the winner of the race. 500 miles is a long way and a lot can happen before the checkered flag falls.

There could be any number of challenges arise to put a damper on a great qualifying time. Anything from a loose axle cap to a missing lug nut can put a competitor far back in the field, no matter where he is running and no matter where he qualified. Besides the mechanical, there is always the possibility of driver error and it doesn’t even have to be the driver in the lead’s fault. They could just be in the wrong place at the right time.

That’s what makes racing so exciting to me. With all of the things that can go wrong and the pits stops proving to be as important as the laps run by the driver to gain track position, I just don’t see this race being decided simply by starting on the pole. Each of the teams is going to have plenty of chances to make or break their finishing position before the race is over.

It is possible this could be the week that the Roush cars break out of their slump and finish up front. Greg Biffle is looking very strong and keeps on talking like they have stumbled onto something the other front runners have been using and is confident they are going to start running better. If they have, it could mean a return to the way they closed out last year and would be a welcome change for all Ford fans. They sure haven’t had much to shout about over the last several months.

Along with Biffle, the #17 of Matt Kenseth and the #99 of Carl Edwards could be seen finishing in the top 10, or even the top 5 over the next several races.

Juan Montoya is still looking to take his first victory in the Chase races and his first on an oval track in Nascar. Being only 51 points behind the leader Mark Martin, he is ever lurking in the shadows of the top five so far in the Chase races and could make the leap to the top at any time. Of course, he could also go in the other direction at any time, too. At this point, he has been the most consistent finisher in the Chase, but all it takes is one bad break or little mistake, to have a bad finish, (can anyone say, Indianapolis?)

No matter how strong some of the other teams looked in the practices, the Hendrick teams are still on top of their game. I look for Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson to still flex their muscles in the race Sunday afternoon. Along with them, I haven’t seen where Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon have conceded the race to anyone yet. I expect they will be making their presence known in the top finishers as well.

I suppose it is possible this race could come down to a fuel mileage race and that could prove to be interesting if it does. That could mean someone totally unexpected, in this fan’s view, could take the trip to Victory Lane. Personally, I don’t expect that to happen and I really hope it doesn’t, but I do have to mention the possibility.

No matter how we look at it, this could be the race that sees a major shuffle in positions of all the top Chase contenders. I am expecting a real shootout near the end, especially if there are several cautions near the end of the race. The double file restart has added such a new dimension to the races and a caution at the end of this one could totally change the expected finishing order. Just like last week, I am sure the final pit strategies are going to affect the outcome of the race and determine who ends up in Victory Lane…

See ya next time…
Rusty
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© October 11, 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman


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By Rusty Norman

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