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The Cup teams are continuing their Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship on the flat, paperclip shaped track at Martinsville. Depending on how things go for those atop the points standings Sunday afternoon, a lot can happen in the way we view those with a chance of winning the Championship. In fact, I would say this weekend will pretty much set the field for those that will take it down to the final race in Homestead.
While some would like to think there are more than five that can win the Championship, this fan thinks it is down to three after this weekend. Of course that depends on whether or not the Chase begins to unwind for those sitting in the top three positions at the moment. As much as I might like to see things tighten up in the points and the last race in Homestead be more dramatic, I really don’t see much changing over the next few weeks.
Martinsville is a difficult short track and a lot things can happen both on the track and in the pits but that won’t necessarily translate into major changes in the standings. Jimmie Johnson sits on the pole and that could spell a race win for him and a tightening of the points battle between him and Brad Keselowski who has a long way to go from his 32nd starting position.
Denny Hamlin absolutely has to figure into the mix and, with his truck win this weekend, he definitely needs to be considered for ending up in Victory Lane at the end of the Tums Fast Relief 500.
Clint Bowyer is starting eighth but isn’t guaranteed a top finishing spot by any means. Although he and his MWR running mates have been showing some real strength over the last several weeks, I’m not so sure this short track will be good to him. He has to keep on finishing in the top five if he really wants to be considered as a real threat for the Championship. He has to make up twenty five points on Brad Keselowski and, with the way Keselowski has been running lately, that just might not be a possibility. In fact, with the present points system NASCAR has in place, it is going to be difficult for anyone to make up the amount of points needed to get in to contention for the Championship.
Kasey Kahne is in the same predicament as Bowyer and it doesn’t appear to this fan he will make up a lot of points on the top spots even though he has been running good. Unfortunately, good isn’t good enough unless there is a major change in the way Johnson and Keselowski have been finishing.
One interesting statistic that stands out to me is the qualifying times. There is only a little over a half second separating the fastest qualifier and the slowest. That can only mean one thing when it comes to the race – it will be hard to pass and track position is going to be golden. That puts a lot of pressure on the crews to perform during the pit stops and adds to the possibility of them making mistakes. If mistakes happen, the drivers are more likely to let their emotions get the better of them. If emotions do take over, it could mean they make a mistake that can really put them in a hole (at least from this fan’s view.)
Of course, all of this speculation on today’s race depends on whether or not it rains and whether or not someone other than the Chasers run up front. There is a very good possibility someone outside the top twelve could win today. Bryan Vickers was very fast in the final practice and could end up taking first place at the end of the day for MWR. No one should overlook the possibility of Kyle Bush being up front at the end of the day either. After all, he did qualify third and knows how to navigate this short track which is two dragstrips with turns at the end of them.
When all is said and done at the end of this one, I expect the biggest winner to be the track. It is the challenge for the drivers for this race and, because it is a short track, it could be a “game-changer” for the top Chasers. Going in, this fan thinks Jimmie Johnson has the advantage. After the green flag drops, it is anybody’s guess what will happen and who will win.
After all… this is a flat short track shaped like a paperclip where emotions run high and passing is difficult to say the least. Track position and getting off the corners will be the keys to winning this one and with only a half second separating the fastest from the slowest… well… it’s Martinsville (and you know what that means… )
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 28, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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