Nascar Racing

Cup Teams Take On the Auto Club Speedway

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Rusty Norman

From this fan’s view, it looks like they’ve finally found a track that the new Gen 6 car likes. No… I’m not talking about the Auto Club Speedway at Sonoma (well, at least not yet) but I am talking about the half mile track at Bristol.

All things considered, the racing at Bristol was some of the best we’ve seen so far this season (at least from this fan’s view.) So… also from my view, the Gen 6 has shown itself to be a great fit for short track, high bank race tracks. (Well… maybe I’m a little premature on that point too since the Gen 6 has only visited the one so far.)That’s why this weekend will be another question mark in the continuing saga of the new car and the NASCAR Cup Teams in this 2013 season.

It is a well known fact that the Auto Club Speedway surface is aging and seems to get a little more bumpy every time NASCAR Cup visits. That’s not to mention the seams in the asphalt surface that makes it all the more precarious for the drivers. Sure, I know they all complain about it but they also like the challenge and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing… I’m just saying the track has character and it’s good that the “best drivers in the world” have places they go to that do challenge them.

It does appear they’re getting a better grip on this new car but it also looks like they’re still trying a lot of different things between team-mates to gain as much information as they possibly can. Of course, that would be before this first break in racing since the season began, happening after this weekend.

All of the Cup teams get next weekend off from racing but it remains to be seen if any of them get much time off other that just the Easter Holiday. With the changeover to the Gen 6, all of the shops have been very busy trying to get their cars changed over to the new bodies and rules and that has kept all of them busy trying to play catch up. Perhaps soon they will be able to breathe at least a bit easier now that the first five races will be out of the way. One thing’s for certain, at least from this fan’s view. No one is letting on as to how much they have learned in these first weeks of 2013 but they have hit almost every type track so it is this fan’s guess, especially after this weekend, they will have a lot of stats to mull over for the next race in two weeks.

So what will the racing be like this weekend? Well, a few things to keep in mind is that it is a 2 mile track with high banking which results in high speeds especially as they get to the end of the straights. I’m of the opinion this could be a race that sees a mixture of long green flag runs and some cautions for possible accidents, mostly because of the seams and the bumps which result in the cars being unruly at times. In watching the practices, it did appear more than a few did get squirrely at times. I expect that to be a continuing problem as the race progresses Sunday afternoon and there just may be more than a couple of blown engines.

Tire wear will definitely figure into the way the racing goes and there is a lot of drop off from when they start off with a new set and get about 8 – 10 laps into a run. That could make for some really good racing and at least some disappointments for some that have a good chance at taking the checkers. I could be wrong about the engine failures but this is definitely a track that is hard on engines if for no other reason than the speeds.

The Fords, in particular Greg Biffle’s #16 Roush Ford, were showing muscle all weekend. Yeah, I know Biffle started off with a blown engine and will have to start in the back after qualifying second, but he is definitely one to watch for this one. He was fast in every practice.

The Toyotas also showed they were capable of running up front all day and all three of the JGR teams practiced and qualified well. Denny Hamlin starts on the pole and could take it all the way to Victory Lane. And that’s not to mention Kyle Bush and Matt Kenseth.

Is it possible the Chevys just won’t make a show of it in this Auto Club 400? That’s probably a bit of a stretch but they didn’t make a lot of noise in the practice sessions. I wouldn’t count them out, especially Jimmie Johnson, but they may have a long day ahead of them.

I’m interested in seeing if the Gen 6 races well at this track. During the practice sessions we did see a little of the cars running together, but this fan couldn’t tell what the racing will be like when they get together in big packs like at the start and restarts. It is possible tire wear could make a difference for this race and it is probably an understatement to say track position will be a necessity to end up in Victory Lane but then, when isn’t it… ?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 23, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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By Rusty Norman

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