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Nascar Racing

And So The Chase Begins at Chicago

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Wow!!! What a week it has been for NASCAR. The race for the Chase going into Richmond was one of the closest points battles since the Chase format began. Of course you know I’m talking about the battle for 8th to 12th and not the first seven. Because of the closeness of the points and all of the possibilities surrounding which teams might make it in, controversy reigned and NASCAR had to take actions that were unprecedented in its history. If nothing else, one thing is certain, Richmond showed to what lengths teams are willing to go to make it into the Chase. Unfortunately, NASCAR got a black eye and now has a lot of work to do to gain its integrity back. (Unfortunately for them, that may take some time.

It is the hope of many (including this fan) that Chicago will be much more about what NASCAR is all about and that is flat out racing by what many call the best race car drivers in the world. At least this week won’t be about a tight points race and shouldn’t have too much controversy involved. Well, that is if something out of the ordinary doesn’t happen during the race. (Hopefully this one will be free of “judgement” calls by the sanctioning body and the winner will be obvious when it is over.

From my view, this race will be a relatively calm one compared to last week and won’t have near the press coverage of last weekend. (In fact, I think this Chase may have trouble getting anywhere near the press coverage NASCAR Cup got from Richmond.)

If practice and qualifying says anything about what to expect this weekend, it says the Fords are fast. The Roush and Penske Fords in particular were noticeably fast and the Penske teams of Logano and Keselowski are on the front row. In fact, the entire field is fast and fourteen of them broke the old track record in qualifying.

Another thing very noticeable about this weekend’s qualifying speeds is the lack of separation between so many of them. So many cars are running so close together in speed that it could mean a really hard time in passing. If there is one thing I haven’t liked about the new Gen 6 car it’s the fact that when someone gets out front it is hard for the others to catch him. When they do catch up it is even harder to pass because clean air makes a world of difference over the turbulence of being behind someone. I mean seriously, we’ve seen cars struggling to move forward from the middle of the pack but when they get out front because of strategy in the pits or elsewhere, they have a tendency to pull away from the rest.

With the speeds being as close as they are for this weekend, this could be a follow the leader night with pressure on the crew chiefs and the crews to get it right in the pits. Although many of the Chasers are starting in the top ten, several aren’t and that should make for some interesting strategies to play out and some interesting restarts. From this fan’s view, if there has been anything that has made the races more interesting this season it would be the restarts and the late race restarts in particular. I know there are those that criticize NASCAR for seeming to find a reason to have a late race caution but it does make for a lot a drama for the end. Not counting Richmond from last week, a lot of races have finished with much more excitement and drama than they would have if the late race caution hadn’t come out. (In fact, there was plenty of drama at Richmond without what happened at the end.)

When it comes right down to the racing, I think you all know how I feel about practice and qualifying. Yeah, that’s right… I don’t put much stock in it at all. The competition is way too close and there are way too many variables over 400 miles. Aside from the fact that the Chicagoland track surface is showing signs of wear, too much can happen in the pits and changing track conditions to count on performance over one or two laps compared to the total over 400 miles.

All three of the makes have been showing speed over the last few weeks. I really do expect to see a real battle between all of them Sunday afternoon. Not only do the Fords and Toyotas need to make a statement but the Chevys also have something to prove. Over the last several weeks the Chevys have been fast but have struggled especially in the middle of the races.

Even though many are out to prove something this weekend, there are a few that would like nothing better than to start off the Chase with a win. Joey Logano needs to show that he is a contender after NASCAR left him in the Chase even after actions similar to MWR’s last weekend. Carl Edwards wants to leave everyone in the dust and walk away with the Chase this year.

Kyle Bush is a hot shoe for the Toyotas whether or not his finishes show it. Many think it is his year to make a bid for the Championship. History tells us he generally struggles a bit when it comes down to the Chase, however, from this fan’s view he has really matured over the last year and a half and has proven over and over again that he has a lot of talent as a driver and that he can win a lot of races. Now it remains to be seen what he can do in this year’s Chase for the Cup.

And then, there’s Jeff Gordon. NASCAR decided to add a thirteenth spot to the Chase this year all because of all the controversy at Richmond last weekend. Now it is up to him and his #24 team to prove they belong in the Chase. I don’t mean to sound negative, but they definitely have a long way to go. Getting this second chance at being in the 2013 Chase just may be the motivation he and his team need to take his fifth NASCAR Cup Championship (which could qualify for the “feel good” story of the year.) I mean after all, he did do something last season that no other Hendrick team has done. He won at Homestead… even though hardly anyone remembers or even thinks about that…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 15, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

By Rusty Norman

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