If qualifying says anything about how the STP 400 will go Sunday afternoon, the Fords and Toyotas will be contenders when it comes down to the final laps. Of the top fifteen starting spots, only four were were Chevys and that could mean the Chevys may or may not be visible in the top spots when it comes down to crunch time at the end of the day.
Of course, you already know how I have generally felt about qualifying and how the actual racing goes on raceday. Well, the Gen 6 car is beginning to change my opinion about that (at least for the time being) and it has been obvious the top qualifiers do seem to have an advantage over the others in the race. Of course I always leave room for whatever improvements some teams make during the practice sessions and know that can make a big difference in their competitve edge compared to their qualifying times. That said, the Fords still look tough and it may be their day to shine.
With all of the tragic happenings in the Boston area this last week, the NASCAR teams have mixed emotions as they take to the Kansas track. Hendrick Motorsports was probably the most directly affected of all as one of the police officers killed by the terrorist brothers was the brother of a machinist working for HMS. That’s not to say others weren’t directly affected by the tragedy but it was obvious (at least to this fan) it had left its mark on all of the Hendrick Teams.
Matt Kenseth continues to surprise many with his performance with his new team at JGR this year and took the pole for Sunday’s race. A quick look at his overall performance this season makes him look to be an obvious choice for being near the top of the list when it comes to the Chase and possibly winning the Cup Championship. It may be way too early to make that statement, but this fan doesn’t see the JGR teams getting any weaker as time progresses during the year. Looking at both Matt and Kyle’s performance so far, I’d say (once again from this fan’s view) they are presently going to be key players when it comes to the Chase.
There’s no doubt the Roush Fords made a strong statement in the first practice and qualifying and could have a dominant performance on Sunday afternoon, (and notice I said “could”.) Although they have been noticeably fast in past weeks, they just haven’t put a whole race together as a team, at least not yet. Sure Carl Edwards has a win, is fifth in points and has some very strong performances this season and Greg Biffle is third in points. Ricky Stenhouse is sitting twentieth in points (which is very good) but overall as a team, they just haven’t shown what the Joe Gibbs and Hendrick teams have so far this season. That could very well change this weekend and I guess we’ll see about that.
From this fan’s view, Jeff Gordon should probably be one of the most frustrated drivers in the garage right now. He and his team just can’t seem to catch a break lately. It’s not that he hasn’t had fast race cars this year and it’s not that he hasn’t been able to run at or close to the front. It has been cases of what can go wrong, has gone wrong. To this fan it seems to be a bit of deja vu from last year. Last week he was running in the top three near the end of the race and the left front hub went bad and cost him a good finishing position and possibly a win. Friday’s qualifying session saw him back his car into the wall on his first qualifying lap and he will start in the rear of the lineup on Sunday. So far, this year it has been feast or famine for the #24 Hendrick Chevy and he is struggling to stay in the top 20 in points.
Judging from the second practice session on Saturday, it does look as though the Chevys may be competitive but it was really hard to tell how many of them will be good on long runs. In fact, it was hard to tell how any of the cars were going to do on long runs. With the temperature hanging in the mid 40’s, a lot of the field appeared to be struggling in many ways with handling and even the ones that had been fast (and stable) in the first practice Friday seemed to have lost the handle on their handling.
From this fan’s view, it looks like the weather may hold the keys to performance on Sunday afternoon. If it warms up to the middle to upper 60’s as expected, it could be the Toyotas and Ford’s run away with it. If the Chevys run the way they did in the second practice, we just might see them up front contending for the win along with the Toyotas and Fords no matter what the weather does.
When push comes to shove, I expect a lot of exciting racing and it also looks like there may be a few cautions all of the drivers will have to contend with. That will mean a lot of double file re-starts and some very interesting racing. I expect a few less-than-slight brushes with the outside wall when they are racing side by side and it could turn into a race of surviving to the end.
Will Matt Kenseth win from the pole like team-mate Kyle did last weekend? I guess that is a possibility but so is Jeff Gordon winning from the back. At end of the day in Kansas, it may all come down to who has tires when the cautions come out…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 20, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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