From a NASCAR Fan’s View
The big question for the race this weekend at Phoenix Raceway is how the new rules package will affect not only the drivers but, the racing in general. After the practice session, it appears the drivers have pretty much gotten a grip on the difference in handling but there are still questions that will only be answered when the race starts.
From this fan’s view and my observations, this race could be quite a bit different than the last time NASCAR visited Phoenix. Let’s see… less downforce, slipping and sliding and just general lack of grip at times means what many describe as better racing. I can’t disagree with that and I definitely agree that putting the results back into the hands of the drivers can make a world of difference to the interest of the racing. There’s nothing like watching a good, competitive battle between drivers.
Ok, that being said, which of the drivers and teams appear to have an upper hand with this rules package so far. Well… that’s a good question and one that’s not easily or quickly answered. Usually, the Fords have had a slight advantage going into Phoenix but this year might not be that way. Now don’t get me wrong. The Chevys – and the Toyotas to a little lesser extent – often show up as the cars to beat. Although it is hard to tell much from one practice session, it does appear to this fan that the teams are fairly well matched. I’m not saying some aren’t running better than others but it has been pretty obvious from fall-off of lap times, the tires will be the most important commodity and will likely have an affect on the overall racing.
Again this week, the Hendrick Chevys have shown up with speed and, in particular, the teams of Willian Byron and Kyle Larson. By the time qualifying came around, it did appear the Toyotas and Fords had also found some speed or, at least comfort for their drivers and things were looking a bit less one-sided.
Look, you and I both know you can’t tell a lot from qualifying if, for no other reason, it’s only the speed of one lap. Qualifying can be deceptive. It has been in the past and will continue to be so in the future. Even though that is true and often the top qualifiers quickly fall back in the pack at first, this weekend could be a bit different. This weekend to top qualifiers could be the ones to watch for the win.
After the practice session, some of the drivers were surprised with where they qualified. It appears the crews were able to make adjustments and the cars responded positively to the adjustments. Of course, it was also obvious that tires were also a key factor in the times and a couple of laps on them made a difference.
So, from this fan’s view, I have to give my opinion of what I think stands out to me. It is pretty obvious that Kyle Larson has shown up with a noticeably fast Hendrick Chevy Camaro. He was fast in practice and fast enough in qualifying to take the pole. It is possible he could dominate the race this afternoon but it just as possible he could fall like a rock backwards through the field during the race and not be factor at the end. Somehow I doubt that will happen because he was fast off the truck, fast in practice and fastest in qualifying but, he only beat Denny Hamlin for the pole by the smallest of margins.
But wait a minute. I have another theory of how the race may go. With the rules change, I expect the dirt-track racers will have an advantage, at least in the beginning. That means there are more possibilities for front runners than just Kyle Larson. In fact, I will go so far as to say so far this season, those that came from dirt track backgrounds have been performing noticeably a little better and that holds somewhat true for the Next Gen car since it was introduced. I know that’s a statement that might be disagreed with but, it is the way I see it.
It is possible that Kyle Larson could dominate this one and gain a little bit back from finishing second instead of first last weekend. Up until Aric Almirola spun with about three laps to go, Kyle was basically walking away with the victory over William Byron even though Byron dominated the day overall. Perhaps this afternoon, Kyle may be the one that dominates and William finishes second…
Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
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Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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