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Well, from this fan’s view, things didn’t go as I expected they would Sunday afternoon. The Fords were slower than I expected they would be in the latter part of the race and a Toyota ended up winning. I have to admit, I was surprised because I really thought a Chevy was going to take home the trophy. Now, I thought the Chevys would want to make a statement, especially since the race was in Michigan (the home of the big four auto makers), and a quick look at the finishing order says they did, at least to me. Of the top nine finishers, six of them were Chevys with one Dodge and two Toyotas. There was a total of eight Chevys in the top fifteen. I would say the Chevys looked very strong for the weekend at Michigan.
The first Ford was Matt Kenseth in tenth with two more finishing eleventh and twelfth. I’m sure that was not at all what they hoped to accomplish, especially at Michigan International Speedway where they usually are the ones to beat. Carl Edwards had an engine problem which caused him to finish many laps down and in thirty-sixth position. Now this is just my opinion, but, I’m thinking he and the #99 team are hoping they’re getting the bad luck out of the way before the Chase starts. Otherwise, it could be long ten races once it does.
As for Denny Hamlin, the longer the season runs the more his luck stays the same. His one victory this season is the only thing keeping him at all in contention for a wildcard spot in the Chase. He took another big hit in points on Sunday, finishing thirty-fifth and dropping further back in the overall top twenty standings to fourteenth. From my view (and listening to him talk during interviews) it appears he is ready to punt this season and work on being strong for next year. Honestly, I can’t blame him, because as I have been saying for the last several articles, he can’t seem to buy a good break even if his career depended on it (and unless things change for him, it very well could depend on his doing better sooner than later.)
Even though the four Hendrick Chevy teams didn’t look that strong in the first practice or qualifying, they sure showed up on Sunday ready to take it to their competition. From this fan’s view, it appeared Jeff Gordon had the strongest car on the longer green flag runs. Unfortunately, it took him around ten laps to get up to top performance in a run and he was also plagued by trash accumulating in his grill causing the engine to run hot and the car to get loose. In all honesty, he had as good a chance at winning as did several of the others. He just didn’t catch any breaks at the right time. Still, he finished sixth and moved up another spot in the top ten to sixth.
Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team showed their usual late season ability to overcome adversity and finish at or near the front. He had a very good chance of taking the win, but Kyle Bush was just too strong for everyone at the end of the day. Even the green-white-checker finish didn’t help him out, even though it did close the gap of Kyle Bush’s lead with the rest of the field.
Even Mark Martin and Dale Jr were looking good at the end, although that green-white- checker did cause Jr to finish much further back than it looked like he was going to. As it turned out, Martin finished fourth and Dale Jr fourteenth. Had it not been for the G-W-C, it is this fan’s opinion Jr would have finished in the top ten, possibly even in the top five.
Brad Keselowski continues to impress with his third top five finish in as many weeks. Whatever happened to him after that horrible crash during testing has sure been good for his finishes over the last three races. With a first, second and a third he has moved from twenty-third in points to twelfth and has been running strong every race. It is no fluke, he has just been sucking it up and driving since the accident. Does that mean he is going to continue performing at this level? Well, that is a very good question and I don’t have a good answer. All I know is this, in NASCAR things can often change to the negative just as quickly as they do the positive. Just ask Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and even Kevin Harvick if you don’t think that’s true.
Whatever happens, the next three races are pivotal for more than just Brad Keselowski. Depending on what happens in these next three races will either make or break the rest of the season for names like Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and even Mark Martin. Wins are the most important thing for all of them, and several others, as the season winds down to its close and the door for being in the Chase slams shut. The others with one win and in the top twenty have to move up in points, or get another win to even have any chance at all of being in the 2011 Chase.
One thing is certain from this fan’s view; it should prove to be a very interesting and exciting three weekends ahead and I don’t think we’re going to know all of the drivers that will be in the Chase until the last race is over. So hang on to that cup holder… the fun is just beginning…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 25, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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