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So the 2012 NASCAR season has come down to this… It’s one and done for those not in the Chase and this is a race that most (if not all) of the 43 car field will be trying to win. For those outside the top 12, it is a must win if they expect to get in. For those in the top 10, it is an extra 3 bonus points for them to take into the Chase. Those that don’t have a chance at either are simply looking for a win because winning is what it is all about in NASCAR.
If you listen to the hype, there are still 8 teams that have at least a long shot at making it into the Chase, but in real terms it is down to 2 (or maybe 3), at least from this fan’s view. For most of the eight to have a chance, the stars have to line up in a certain order and for many of them it is a long shot at best. For two of them, namely Kyle Bush and Jeff Gordon, Gordon has to win or finish 13 spots ahead of Bush. For Kyle it is a bit easier… all he has to do is finish within 12 spots of Gordon and he is in.
Wow, there couldn’t be a better scenario for the last race and making the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup. To top it all off, this is a Saturday night race, at least if the rain holds off, under the lights guaranteed to have displays of high emotions and maybe even a few fits of temper.
Other than Bush and Gordon, there are a couple of drivers in the top 10 that would definitely like to take a win and that would be Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. Neither one has a win this season and would like nothing more than to take a win at RIR this weekend. Kevin Harvick took the win in the Nationwide Series last night and would like to take some momentum into the start of the Chase next weekend with a win tonight. As for Martin Truex Jr, he has been running fast for MWR all year and would just like to win. He has been close but hasn’t been able to seal the deal yet this year.
If anything can be judged by qualifying speeds, it would appear the top ten is full of possible winners. There are some pretty heavy hitters especially in the top seven. Without going into too much detail, this fan would remind everyone that less than six tenths of a second separates the entire 43 car field. As someone once said, “that ain’t much” and it just goes to show how close the competition is in Cup and also gives at least a little insight into how the race could shape up tonight.
Dale Jr took his first pole for the 2012 season and only beat out his team-mate in the #24 by seven thousandths of a second. He has a very good chance at taking the win tonight and from my view, that would give him some momentum going into the Chase next week, too. One thing is certain, Dale Jr and crew chief, Steve Letarte have shown a lot of consistency this year and a win tonight could mean a lot for the #88 team and the next ten races.
The Toyotas of Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin, in particular, could spell trouble for Jeff Gordon and Kyle Bush’s hopes for a win tonight. Clint Bowyer qualified well and looked to be fairly well hooked up in the practice sessions. As for Denny Hamlin… well… let’s just say he is going for his third win in three weeks. If that doesn’t say something about his momentum going into tonight’s race and the Chase, then his four wins so far this season doesn’t either.
There are other’s that could prove to be spoilers tonight. Regan Smith, Mark Martin and Joey Logano all qualified in the top 10 and could take the win tonight. I’m not saying they will but I am saying they could and that could make the race for the second wild card slot all the more interesting.
I expect Jimmie Johnson to figure somewhere into the drama tonight. He is looking for another win and more bonus points to take into the Chase. A win tonight would put him in a tie with Denny Hamlin for the top spot when the points reset for the Chase.
Although in this fan’s opinion, it won’t make that much difference for the five time Cup champ’s chances for winning his sixth, I know he wants to win as much as anyone at RIR tonight and that’s the point. Tonight at Richmond is a night that all 43 cars in the field will be going all out to win. Some have absolutely nothing to lose and others have everything to gain. I expect the emotions to be high along with some displays of temper as I said before and that will just add to the excitement. The only thing missing from tonight’s race is a full moon.
From this fan’s view, the only thing that can take away from the intensity and drama of tonight’s race is if one of the teams absolutely dominates the rest of the field from the very beginning to the end and immediately removes any doubt as to who will make that twelfth spot.
One has to wonder if this is just the beginning of how the Chase will go considering last year’s run between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards or if it will be the height of the drama and the actual Chase turns out to be ho-hum. From this fan’s view, it could go either way. And by the way, from this fan’s view Jeff Gordon is going to win tonight…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 8, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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