NASCAR Sprint Cup Teams hit the track at Michigan this weekend and although some are safely in The Chase (barring absolute disasters), some are not and the drama for those that are not will continue for the next four weeks. At that point the top twelve positions will shift around according to points with the addition of the number of wins a driver has. That means those that are leading the points at this point won’t necessarily be at the top of the list anymore and those with the most wins will take their positions.
Let’s face it; if someone outside the top twelve is going to make it in, they are going to have to finish up front for the next four races. Ten points separate 12th from 13th and the only ones that have a realistic shot other than them are in positions 14 to 17, at least, that’s my opinion.
Let’s just say for argument sake that the 19th spot is the cut off point. For Juan Montoya to break into the top twelve and make it into the Chase would mean he has to make up 205 points over the next four races. Although it is possible, it isn’t too likely. It is true, a driver can make up 160 points a race, but, that would mean the driver would have to finish first and lead the most laps and the other driver would have to finish last. I think the chances for that happening are slim indeed, but since we are talking about NASCAR, we cannot totally overlook any possibilities. After all, stranger things have happened and recently, some teams have had extended weeks of bad breaks and poor finishes.
Personally, I think the real possibilities are between Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin. They can go at it for the next four weeks and we may not know which of them is in until the race at Richmond. I suppose it is possible they could both have a bad four weeks and someone else beat them out for that coveted 12th spot and a place in the Chase. (Notice I said it is possible… I didn’t say I expected it to happen.)
After watching the practice and qualifying sessions on Friday afternoon, it is pretty obvious to this fan this could be a race with some different faces up front. Yeah, I know that sounds a little strange but this could be a week for Fords and Dodges to shine. We’ve come to expect the RCR and Hendrick teams to perform well and they generally do, but, this week I’m thinking they may have their work cut out for them; that is, unless they make some great strides in the final practice today.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Chevys won’t be around the front at the end of the race, I’m just saying the Fords and Dodges looked pretty fast on Friday and if that trend continues, it very well could be a Roush Ford or Penske Dodge taking home the hardware at the end of the day on Sunday.
Of course, I can’t overlook the EGR teams of Montoya and McMurray either. Once again Montoya has shown up to the track with a fast race car. After his victory at The Glen, he is riding that thing they call the “big Mo” and that momentum could make a difference this weekend for him. It has been a very good year for Chip Ganassi and they have pulled off some really big wins. As I mentioned earlier, it is still possible that either one, or both, of his teams could make the Chase even though they do have their work cut out for them and more than just a couple of things have to go right for that to happen. I would even go so far as to say some other teams just ahead of them would almost certainly have to fall apart for them to make it. Still, at least finishing well this weekend keeps them in the hunt.
I’m not sure, but I don’t think the qualifying tells the whole story and I know there is another practice today for some that have appeared to be struggling to find their comfort zones.
Michigan International Speedway is a fast track with a lot of room for racing and track position will also play a big part in who can get and stay out front. I expect there to be long green flag runs and, as usual, I expect fuel mileage to play a big factor at the end. If there is a long green flag run at the end without a caution, it is a given that the one that can run consistently fast and use the least amount of fuel has the best chance to win. It is all going to come down to those last couple of laps especially if there is no caution to take fuel mileage out of the equation.
Who’s going to win? That’s a great question… I’m thinking it could be Jeff Burton or Mark Martin. (Yeah, I know they’re Chevys and I said the Fords and Dodges looked fast, but, once a Chevy man, always a Chevy man…)
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 14, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
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