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After the Phoenix race it is down to the two top contenders, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, as the NASCAR Cup teams make their way this coming weekend to the finale in Homestead. They came into the weekend at Phoenix separated by three points and they left separated by three points and that should make the race this coming weekend very interesting. Tony has to finish at least three points ahead of Carl to tie and then I think it becomes all about the wins, (and we all know how many Carl Edwards has.)
I have to admit, the track came in much quicker than I thought it would and all of us were treated to a great race Sunday afternoon. It appears to this fan, Goodyear definitely brought the right tire, the teams either had a grip on the track or they didn’t and the racing, well, it was very good. Once again, fuel mileage had something to do with the finish, even though it wasn’t the total determining factor for winning. Kasey Kahne ran good all day and had the others covered at the end of the day taking his first victory in a long time.
For the #4 Red Bull Racing team, it was a welcome relief to take the victory especially with the uncertainties Red Bull Racing faces for the coming year. For Kasey Kahne and his crew chief, Kenny Francis, it could be the shape of things to come as they head off after the season’s end to Hendrick Racing. I reckon we’ll find how that transition goes, but for now, Kasey’s Red Bull team has been one of the strongest in the Chase, (other than Tony Stewart, that is) and they haven’t even been in the Chase. Even though they will be switching to their new home at Hendrick, in my opinion, they will making the move with confidence.
As I mentioned earlier, some of the teams just never got a hold of the new track surface at Phoenix and struggled all day. Of particular interest to this fan was the plight of the Hendrick teams. All of them seemed to struggle most, if not all of the weekend. In fact, I would go so far as to say, they just haven’t performed with their usual consistency for the whole Chase. From my view, the year was not a good one for them and it appears they have a little regrouping to do for the coming 2012 season.
Both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have performed with complete inconsistency during this Chase and had to be a let down for them. Jeff Gordon looked very strong coming into the Chase, but when he got there, it was as if the wheels came off and he was dropping like a rock most of the Chase. From this fan’s view, he could very well be fighting Kyle Bush for the twelfth spot this weekend.
If Homestead is anything like his weekend in Phoenix, it could be a very long winter for Jeff. I’m not expecting much, but I’m sure he would be very pleased to have at least a top five this coming weekend and it would be very interesting to see the Hendrick teams in general do more than their usual struggling at Homestead.
Now speaking of Kyle Bush, it seems to this fan, when the wheels came off at Texas, they really came off for him and the end of his season. Two engine failures in one weekend don’t give a driver much to go forward with after being set on the sidelines for a weekend. From this fans view it appears to this fan he is having one of those character building moments many seem to face in life and, even though he has come a long way with his attitude this year, it is pretty obvious tho this fan, he still has a ways to go. I’m thinking this has been good for him and I expect he will bounce back from all of it next year.
I’m not so sure how he and his team will do this weekend though. He may do well or there could be more of those character building moments ahead for him this weekend, but I am sure he is glad to have the Texas and Phoenix tracks behind him. If nothing else, owner, Joe Gibbs, needs to have a less eventful weekend at least as far as the negatives go. No matter how you look at it, it has been a tough year so far for Joe Gibbs Racing,
With one race to go to name the 2011 Cup Champion and Phoenix in the rear view mirror, this fan has to admit facing the coming weekend with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am looking forward to some time off and spending the holidays with family and friends but I will miss the weekends of racing we have been witness to this year. Contrary to what many believed when we started this year with the new points system and a few other tweaks to the sport we love, it has been a very good year for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
There has never been a lack of drama for the whole year whether it was the fuel mileage races or the tandem drafting at both Daytona and Talladega. I really can’t say I expected the competition to be this close or this exciting. So far, emotions and competitiveness have been quite evident all year and there has been no letting up on anyone’s part.
It looks as if the naysayers were wrong when they said there was going to be a lack of competition and a lot of laying back until the end of the races. Often, at least from my view, it was all out from the drop of the green flag to the waving of the checkers in most every race. From this fan’s view, with only three points separating the two that can actually win the Championship this coming weekend, I look for more of the same and I expect to see Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart trying to get every point they can in the weekend ahead. As for the rest of the racers and Chasers, well, it may sound funny, but I expect them to be doing the same thing, too…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 17, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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