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Ah… There’s just nothing like the feeling of returning to the roots of Saturday Night under the lights. That’s when many of us local racers did our track time and it was always something we looked forward to, whether to race or to watch. It is always an interesting event when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams take to the track under the lights and just like at the local tracks, everything looks different. The cars look different, the track looks different and just about everythin g about it has a different feel.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Sunday afternoon racing but Saturday night is what I grew up with along with many of you and there is always something special about it. (Well, at least it is special to me and a lot of friends and fellow racers I know.) Once you’ve been there – especially as a driver or a fan – it seems there is a magnetism that continuously draws you back; whether it was before I was old enough to drive or after, I looked forward to those Saturday nights under the lights.
So… is there anything different about the Kansas Speedway that may affect the way the drivers attack the race Saturday night? Well, yes and no. The track is another year older so the surface is that much more aged but I don’t think that will have that great of an effect on them. This year’s lower down force package should have some effect but most of the teams seem to be adapting to it quite nicely as the season progresses so, from this fan’s view, I don’t think that will be that big a deal to them either.
Now the fact that Goodyear brought a different tire for this race may be one of the things that has a greater effect than most of the other things just mentioned. I don’t think the tire will be problem but it does mean they have to adjust to it and that could make a bigger difference than if it was one they used before at Kansas. Even when it is a tire they have tested at the track, there can be things about it that unexpectedly show up as the race progresses towards the finish. From my view, I don’t think it will be a problem at all but it could be simply because of the unknowns.
Another thing that might be a little bit of a challenge for the drivers and teams is that their practices were in the daytime and the race is in the evening into the night. That generally means different track temps and higher speeds which generally translates into different tire pressures which possibly affects the ride heights. That might have the greatest effect after pit stops and the first couple of laps after a restart. If it turns out to make a difference, be expecting some spins and possible wall banging; if nothing else something like that could have a greater effect on who wins and who doesn’t.
Although many think this might be the week the JGR teams make an entry into the win column, this fan isn’t so sure. It’s not that they’ve been performing all that badly but they definitely haven’t found the speed and balance combination that led to their more dominate performances last season. They’re still looking for some speed and lack of mistakes by the drivers and pit crews which could lead to a victory. Since the season is hitting several 1½ mile tracks and those have been their strongest point in the past, it is possible they could take a win or two soon but I don’t think it will be here at Kansas. (Hey… that’s just this fan’s opinion. You may feel differently but, well, you’re not writing this… heh, heh!)
One of the biggest reasons this fan thinks it won’t be a JGR Toyota that shows up in Victory Lane Saturday night is because of how strong the Fords have looked. I mean, look who’s sitting on the pole for the Go Bowling 400, Ryan Blaney. It is his first pole in Cup and he was fast even off the truck. Add to that there are five Fords starting in the top ten along with three Toyotas and only two Chevys. To say the Fords don’t have a good shot at taking another win just doesn’t make sense but stranger things have happened recently.
Martin Truex Jr. could be the Toyota that makes me wrong and he has had pretty strong performances all season so far. Since he and his team are associated with JGR, I guess it could mean a Toyota could end up in Victory Lane but that’s just not the way it looks from this fan’s view. I may end up being totally wrong about it being a Ford taking the win and it turn out to be someone like a Hendrick or Ganassi Chevy which wouldn’t surprise me at all. Names like Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson or even Chase Elliott do come to mind but I’m just not ready to give it to them yet.
Now, everything I just mentioned can and probably will change when all forty of the cars take to the track and the “stage” racing takes over with its intensity and drama. When it’s all over, it could be a relative unknown or it could be a repeat winner celebrating in Victory Lane. I’m just not sure which it will be but one thing is certain; the one that wins is going to have to work for it…
(And by the way, what’s up with all of those cars that couldn’t get through inspection in time to make qualifying? Man, talk about adding unknowns into the mix for the Go Bowling 400…)
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 12, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated