Nascar Racing

The Intensity Is Up For Cup Teams At Sonoma


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Well, it’s time to hit a road course in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series and this one should prove to be very interesting no matter how it turns out. A lot of things have changed since the last time the Cup teams visited Sonoma but one thing that has stayed constant for the 2014 season is the record-breaking speeds the Cup cars are running these days. It seems that at least twenty-two of the top qualifiers for Sunday’s race broke the old track record. Ten of those didn’t even make the top twelve and yet they’re running faster than they ever have that the Sonoma road course.

From this fan’s view, it’s just not like it used to be. When NASCAR would visit road course you could pretty well figure on any one of about six drivers that might win the race while the others would just endure it. These days however, it seems that at least 99% of the field loves to run the road courses and at least half of them are very good at it. Does that mean that those same six favorite choices won’t win? Not at all, and I don’t mean to imply that at all. I just want to say that there are at least twenty- two drivers that have a chance of winning on the road course at Sonoma Sunday afternoon and that’s a lot to choose from.

So, why do I even mention the word intensity in the title? Well now that’s an easy question and I’m really glad you asked it. The reason, at least from this fan’s view, is that the chances for making the Chase are beginning to wind down and if nothing else, many of the teams are scrambling to try and get their first victory. If some of the teams can get their first victory either at Sonoma or in the next few weeks, there’s a good chance they will make the Chase. (Well, that is if they’re in the top 20 in points and have that victory.)

It seemed that all of the drivers trying to qualify well for Sunday’s race did their best to treat the others as they would want to be treated while trying to get their fastest lap. This fan doesn’t think it’ll be that way Sunday afternoon however. In fact, simply because the time is growing short and there are those that really need to grab a victory, I expect this to be one of the more intense races we’ve had in a while. I really don’t think you’ll see many, if any, cutting other drivers any slack unless they think it might help themselves more than the other drivers.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t expect to see real aggressive driving until later in the race but, when it comes down to crunch time, I expect it to be all out and if anyone’s in the way, look out! Somebody may pull out all the stops and move whoever is keeping them from advancing out of the way (and we all know what that might cause… yeah, that’s right… some intense emotions.)

As usual, track position is going to be very important all day long. One of the dilemmas facing the crew chiefs as this fan sees it is how many stops it’s going to take to win the race. In listening to the chatter amongst the drivers and the crew chiefs one of the big unknowns is just how long the tires are going to last, at least competitively. At least some advantage can be gained by having better rubber on the car but I think much of the strategy is going to depend on how many and when the caution flags fall. I think that’s going to be the one thing that makes all the difference in this race at Sonoma compared to previous ones. Of course it’s a given that fuel mileage will figure into the mix but that too will figure in to when and how many cautions actually fall. It is possible that fuel mileage will have absolutely nothing to do with this race but it can never be counted out completely.

One thing that’s been hard to judge during the practice and qualifying sessions has been who is running best for the longest period of time. It is my suspicion that some of the drivers have been holding that information close to the vest because they just don’t want the others to know how good their cars are on the long runs. If, by chance, the race has very few if any cautions, the one that ends up in Victory Lane will be the one that has the best tire wear, fuel mileage and track position after their necessary pit stops.

Although there are some teams that have looked very strong during the practice sessions and qualifying, there’s no guarantee they will run strong all day. AJ Allmendinger and yes, even Kyle Larson, have looked strong throughout the practice sessions and qualifying. AJ seems to think he has a very good racing set up and that could mean he could win from his position on the front row next to Jamie McMurray who has the pole.

In past weeks this season, Kyle Larson has looked good in practice and qualifying but hasn’t always finished well. In fact, let’s not forget that he is just a rookie even though he has displayed some very good driving over the last several weeks. I just may have to agree, as many are saying, it’s probably just a matter of time until he ends up in Victory Lane and this just might be his week.

Generally, I like to stick my neck out a little and pick a winner by this time but, I don’t know that I’m going to do that this week. Although I do think there are many that can win there are only a few this fan thinks will win. Contrary to popular opinion, those names are names of drivers that have already won this year and only after the checkered flag falls will we know whether I was right or wrong… Hendrick Motor Sports anyone??

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 21, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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By Rusty Norman

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