Nascar Racing

It’s Two to Go to Make The Show


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Atlanta is always an interesting race and this year it is one of the two most important remaining Cup races for those trying to make the Chase. It is a fast track with a worn our surface and a place that generally yields extended drama especially when it comes down to taking the checkered flag. Add to that the fact that Goodyear is using a brand new type tire this weekend and you have a recipe for excitement along with step into the unknown.

With the seventh to fifteenth points positions still up in the air, it is still anybody’s guess who will make the Chase. There are some that have the points but lack wins and disaster could strike them more than once over the next two races. There are others that have at least one win but are a little lacking in the points. Still, with those two wild card spot rules, a win by one or two of those without wins over the next two races could change the whole face of the Chase. (Well… at least that’s the way it looks right now.)

The challenge for the drivers at this fast, one and a half mile track would appear to be the exit of turn four and just a general lack of grip all around the worn out Atlanta Motor Speedway. It remains to be seen how the Cup cars do when it comes down to 43 cars on the track. The racing surface is wide but the actual “groove” is different in turns one and two than it is in three and four. From this fan’s view, the driver that can run the top and the bottom consistently for the most laps will have an advantage over the rest of the field tonight.

A quick look at the fastest final practice speeds yields an interesting first impression. The drivers with the fastest speeds in the practice just happen to be the top three in the points for the Chase. Whether or not that actually means anything remains to be seen as the night progresses but this fan did find it interesting.

The qualifying on the other hand shows a completely different story. The only one of those in the top three in the points was Carl Edwards and he was just a tick slower than rookie, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. We all know Carl can win at AMS but his qualifying and race runs haven’t exactly lined up this season. He has been consistent, which is evidenced by his third place position in the “making the Chase” standings but, he hasn’t been a consistent threat to win at the end of many races.

For the second year in a row, Jeff Gordon is in a position of possibly not making the Chase. Even though Atlanta is a very good track for Jeff, the competition is very tight in the Cup series and his season has been quite a roller coaster ride. At times he has been the car to beat and at other times he has been struggling to finish. Not so much because of mechanical issues but more of either being in the wrong place at the right time or just bad racing luck. Either way, he needs to win either this weekend or next and, from this fan’s view, needs top five finishes both in Atlanta and Richmond or he will probably be running for thirteenth position at Chase time.

Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. are both in the same boat when it comes to the Chase. Neither one has the points to be in the Chase at this point but both do have a win and, since they’re in the top twenty, both would be in if nothing changes for those ahead of them. We’ve already talked about Jeff Gordon’s predicament but Kurt Bush and Brad Keselowski are in the same situation. If they don’t win and the points don’t change for them, neither of them will be in the Chase either. All five of them need to finish at or near the front and try to pass those that are in on points or it’s all over for them, too.

Dale Jr. may be 36 points ahead of tenth place but that is less than a one bad finish in one of the next two races. His problem is he doesn’t have a win either and having poor finishes over the next two races puts him in a situation of not being able to make the Chase either. I’m not saying he is going to have bad finishes at Atlanta or Richmond but I am saying he can’t afford it.

From this fan’s view, the race tonight is going to be an endurance race and there won’t be any room for errors on pit road. With the deteriorated track surface this fan expects to see more than one brush with the wall by a lot more than one driver over the 500 miles. Fuel mileage will also be a factor and it remains to be seen what kind action the different tires might generate. Since tires are a relative unknown, I don’t want to say much other than as the race progresses, we’ll all know more by the end of it.

From my view, I’m hoping the race is better than expected even though I know the field can get a bit strung out and the racing get a little boring until the last one hundred miles. I do expect someone is going to get out front and step away from the rest of the field. It’s just my opinion, but I’m hoping someone that needs to win does win tonight. I’d rather watch those presently in seventh to fifteenth running for the win as those in the top six. Anything other than that just might not be as interesting… Well… at least for this fan.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 31, 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.