Nascar Racing

The Auto Club 400 at Fontana from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanThe Auto Club Speedway at Fontana is fast… That’s true but, it can also be a bit treacherous if a driver hits the sealer in the seams between the different lanes of asphalt at the wrong time. The wrong time would be in the turns on a warm day with the sun shining and every driver will try their best to avoid or straddle those seams during the race this afternoon and that would definitely be the best thing they can do.

If they hit them wrong while racing in a pack it could mean a major accident that claims a bunch of cars. If it happens when they are relatively alone, it could mean a trip into the wall or through the infield. What ever the case, the seams are not the racers friend.

One of the big questions from this fan’s view is which lane most of the drivers will choose to run in today. It doesn’t appear there is that much difference in whether they run high or low, but it is my opinion the fastest way around will be on the high side. That’s where I expect most of them to spend much of their time until the race comes down to the last 40 laps or so. No, that doesn’t mean I think they’re going to run around single file and play follow the leader but there is a thing called momentum on the high side and I think many are going to take advantage of it as often as they can.

From my view, it is hard to tell which brand has the advantage because both the Toyotas and the Chevys look very strong in practice and qualifying. Of course, there is the obvious fact that the Toyotas are starting from the first three spots and two of those are from the Joe Gibbs camp. Uh, and I guess you noticed that a Joe Gibbs Toyota won the Nationwide Series race on Saturday. That just might mean something come lap 199 this afternoon and it could be Denny Hamlin or Kyle Bush being interviewed in Victory Lane.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying one of those two are going to win, but I am saying the JGR Toyotas are looking very good for doing well in today’s race.

And then there’s that “old guy” Mark Martin starting third out of the Michael Waltrip Racing camp and he can’t really be counted out of the realm of possible winners for today’s race. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is possible this could be a weekend the winner could be one of the the MWR cars. They have been running good all year and this fan wouldn’t put it past them with the way they’ve looked in practice and qualifying over the last few weeks. Clint Bowyer went last in qualifying which means he has a very fast car, he just didn’t have a good qualifying run.

A quick look at the top ten qualifiers shows five Chevys, four Toyotas and the lone Ford of Greg Biffle. However the race turns out, this fan doesn’t see an advantage to one over the other simply because the qualifying and practice lap times are so close together. In fact, that is one of the major complaints mentioned by the drivers; they could pass if it weren’t for the fact that so many of the cars are running so close in lap times.

There are several drivers and teams looking for a turn around in their racing luck this weekend at Fontana. In particular, that would be Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards. Of the three, Carl Edwards is doing the best but isn’t at all where he wants to be in performance or points. After the way the season ended last year, this fan expected him to pick up where he left off and be at, or near, the top of the list in points.

Kasey Kahne has had fast cars every week but hasn’t had the finishes to go with it. In fact, he sits 32nd in points and has to start finishing in the top ten on a regular basis to get anywhere close to where he wants to be. Soon, without a change in his luck, he just might have to wait until next year.

Jeff Gordon is kind of in the same place as Kahne. He has had cars capable of winning but hasn’t been able to capitalize on having competitive equipment because of an engine failure earlier in the year and a trip into the wall last weekend. At the moment he sits 23rd in points, not at all where he hoped he would be. The only thing other than better finishes that can get him and the other two into the Chase is winning a couple of races and a chance for a wildcard slot. Yeah, I know we’re only looking at starting the fifth race of the year, but none of these three can continue having the finishes they’ve been having if they want to get into the the top ten in points.

If the weather holds, this afternoon’s race winner will be the one who maintains track position and that, in my opinion, will once again put pressure on the pit crews to perform fast and flawlessly, especially late in the race. I’m thinking there may be a rain delay or even a rain shortened race depending on when the rains fall. However the race goes it should be a good one and I’m looking forward to it.

Uh, did I mention I’m expecting an unexpected winner…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 25, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and
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By Rusty Norman

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