Nascar Racing

The Chasers Face An Intense Night Race At Charlotte


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If anyone thought last week’s race at Kansas Speedway was intense and filled with a lot of drama well – (to coin an old phrase) – “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway will, in this fan’s opinion, be twice as intense and there will be no shortage of drama. The only one that won’t be feeling any extra pressure to perform will be Joey Logano even though this fan thinks he will try as hard as he can to win and keep any of the other Chasers from gaining any ground on him.

As it stands at the time of this writing, there are three of the twelve in the Contender Segment that will absolutely be feeling more heat to finish at or near the front simply because of the problems they had at Kansas last week. Two of them are former Cup Champions, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski and the other one is NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Jr.

One of the most repeated statements this fan has heard in recent weeks from the drivers is, “Well, you can’t win the Chase by winning one race in the first three segments but you sure can lose it by having a bad race.” So far, these three are feeling the effects of one bad race at an inopportune time and in one of the more intense segments of the new Chase format. It is one thing to have a bad race in the first race of a segment but it is quite another to have that bad race in a segment that includes as one of its races, Talladega. That almost makes the chances of having two bad races in one segment an absolute possibility.

Not all that long ago, NASCAR fans were treated to one of the most exciting and dramatic finishes to a Chase for the Championship between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. After the race at Homestead that year, the Championship ended in a tie and Tony Stewart won the Championship with the tie-breaker. As exciting as that year was right down to the wire of the last race of the year, this new format has taken sixteen drivers, pitted them against each other and can eliminate even the year’s strongest contenders in one of three segments leading up to the final at Homestead. Any team having a lack-luster or weak ten race end to their season can completely wipe out twenty six races of dominant performances and quickly eliminate them from winning the Championship. Looking at this year, that has a great possibility happening.

Of those that have had very strong seasons this year, some that were at the top of the list for much of this year are now on the bubble of being eliminated. Of those, the most mentioned name is Jimmie Johnson and it is somewhat of a surprise that the six time Cup champ is in danger of being eliminated from another run for the Championship. Brad Keselowski is another Cup champ that is in the same boat even though he has had strong year with a few ups and downs along the way. As much as many hate to even think about it, Dale Jr isn’t in much better shape to advance to the next segment even though he has had an outstanding year.

Jeff Gordon was the points leader for much of this year and now sits on the bubble of being eliminated if he has a bad finish tonight. Any of these four I just mentioned were on just about everyone’s list of being one of the four in the Championship race at Homestead. At this point, and from this fan’s view, all of these four need to win or finish in the top five tonight if they expect to have any great hope for advancing into the next segment which is correctly named the elimination segment. Of course, any one of them can have a bad night tonight and win at Talladega next weekend and still move on into the next round but, in this fan’s opinion, none of them seriously wants to go into Talladega needing to win to stay in contention.

I find it interesting that the drivers being talked about now are the ones hardly being mentioned as possible contenders for the Championship round at Homestead and I attribute much of that to the new elimination format for the Chase. It has definitely altered my thinking of how this year’s Chase might turn out and which one of the contenders will end up raising the Sprint Cup Championship trophy over their heads at Homestead.

Tonight’s race will be about track position, and keeping up with the track as it changes throughout the night. Considering the speeds they are running again this weekend I don’t rule out the possibility of tire failures altering the outcome of the race any more than last weekend at Kansas. Personally, although I do expect the cream to rise to the top, I just don’t know who might win this one. It could be a non-Chaser or it could be Joey Logano. This could even be the night that Kyle Larson wins his first Cup race or someone totally unexpected like, well… you pick one.

The Cup teams are now entering into the fifth race of the 2014 Chase and, unlike past years, the new format has completely changed the way the Chase for the Cup Championship is approached and can turn out. In years past even the teams that were at the top of the list in points could afford one really bad race, maybe even one or two “not so great” finishes and still come out on top. This year all of that has changed and a bad finish in one or two races in a row can knock out even the year’s strongest contenders. That’s just one reason this fifth Chase race at Charlotte Motor Speedway tonight is going to be absolutely filled with drama, intensity and high emotions… And then… next week is Talladega…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 11, 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.