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Nascar Racing

Playoff Pressure Is On At Homestead  

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Let’s see… There are seven drivers that want to win or finish up front at Homestead. There are three places left in possibly making the final four and only two races left to race their way in. From my view that means this race at Homestead is full of pressure for the seven remaining in the playoff picture. Well… that is if any of those seven want to race their way into the Final Four. One will make it in by points. That also means the pressure is on those seven and their pit crews to not make mistakes ending up in having a bad day and possibly making it even more difficult to make the Final Four.

All of that makes it even more interesting for all of us as fans but, that kind of pressure on those seven teams can cause what seems to be a standard pit stop for fuel and tires into a possible disaster. It wouldn’t be the first time and, unfortunately, I have a feeling it could happen again Sunday afternoon at Homestead.

Kyle Larson is the only one that can pull out all the stops because it doesn’t really matter where he finishes or if he finishes. He is already qualified for the Final Four because of his win last weekend at Vegas. From my view, I seriously doubt he will be content to just run around, lap after lap, and not be trying to win again at Homestead. I believe he will be running to win and it is quite possible he could. After all, last year he basically dominated and won last year’s race. Of course, that doesn’t mean he will do the same this weekend but he is starting fifth in the starting lineup and there is always a possibility of a repeat performance.

His teammate, William Byron starts seventh and he is another one that could pull off the win but he has been struggling to run at the front. Of course, if you look at his average finishing spot, struggling may not be the best word to use. After all, he did win at Homestead in 2021.

What is going on with the Toyotas? Once again this weekend, one of them won the pole and it just happens to be Martin Truex Jr. Interestingly, there are three Toyotas starting in the top three. Bubba Wallace starts outside pole next to Truex and Tyler Reddick starts third. Surprisingly, Ty Gibbs starts ahead of the other two Toyotas of Denny Hamlin (starting eleventh) and Christopher Bell (starting thirteenth.)

I know I keep repeating myself but, qualifying doesn’t always paint the rosiest picture when it comes to winning the race. In fact, Christopher Bell proved that in the playoffs so far. Do you think it is possible Martin Truex Jr. could prove that to work better for him than for Christopher Bell? After all, he has been struggling most of the playoffs and only making it through to the Round of Eight by the skin of his teeth (and the points he acquired by winning the regular season Championship.) Will this be the race that it all turns around for him? Will this be the race that gets him into the Final Four and a real chance at another Championship? I assure you I don’t know the answer to those questions.

What I do know is there are several non-playoff drivers that would like nothing better than to win at Homestead and put further pressure on those wanting to make the Final Four by forcing them to go to Martinsville and either win or point their way in. If Kyle Larson or a non-playoff driver does win, that is going to make next weekend’s race all the more pressure packed and dramatic. Think about it… that would mean seven drivers still outside the Final Four desperate to make sure to be running for the Championship at Phoenix. Man, talk about pressure. If it goes as I just said, the race at Martinsville could just about be the most dramatic race of all time.

So… what will happen at Homestead? As far as this fan’s view, I have no idea. I do have some suspicions though. Any one of the things I mentioned previously could happen or someone totally unexpected in the Round of Eight could win and move right into the Final Four. It is also possible that someone totally unexpected not in the playoff picture could win and totally make a big shakeup in the points and standings for the cutoff race at Martinsville.

Will Larson have a repeat performance of last year or last week? Will Chrstopher Bell have a better week since he isn’t starting on the pole? Will Denny Hamlin win? Will William Byron? Man… This Homestead race is going to be a very interesting race…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 21, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Categories
Nascar Racing

Vegas And The Round Of Eight Begins  

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Round of Eight begins at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway today and there are a lot of reasons the top drivers want to win this one. First and most importantly, if one of the eight playoff drivers wins, they are immediately qualified for the Final Four and have extra time to prepare for the race at Phoenix for the Championship. That, by itself, means less stress for the other two races leading up to the Final Four. That doesn’t mean they won’t be driving to win when competing in the races at Homestead or Martinsville. It just means they won’t be penalized if they have a bad day at either of them.

It is my opinion that they won’t take a lackadaisical attitude even if they do win at Vegas because they will want to stay sharp and on their game all the way to Phoenix. To let up could spell disaster when they compete at Phoenix rather than them being at the peak of their game and ready to take on the field and win the Championship.

Once again this weekend, Christopher Bell snatched another pole for the playoffs and there are those that have already declared him the favorite to take the Championship when they hit the Phoenix track for the final four and the Championship. Personally, I say there is a long way to go before I’m willing to accept that as a possibility. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t end up being the favorite or the Champion. What I’m saying is, he has several hurdles to clear before he even gets close.

What I will say is, winning the pole isn’t a guarantee of winning this race or moving on the Final Four or even making it to the Final Four. Bell sat on the pole multiple times and, though he did run strong, he didn’t win. I would also point those that think he is poised to move on to the Final Four at Phoenix to look at the times he sat on the pole in the playoffs and didn’t win. I would also have them look at Tyler Reddick last weekend. He sat on the pole but didn’t win at the Roval.

I admit, the Toyotas have shown a lot of speed, especially in qualifying but, they haven’t always finished the job when it comes to winning. I think any of the drivers will tell you that winning a pole may be good for picking a pit stall. Pit stalls are important parts of the race and races can be won or lost in pit stops. They just don’t guarantee a win or even a good finish.

As I look at the starting lineup, it is hard to miss that there are four Toyotas starting in the top eight and three of them are still in the playoffs. I also look at the top three starters and see there are two Hendrick Chevys. Willian Byron starts third and could be the first one to move on to the Final Four by winning today’s race. The other HMS Chevy is Kyle Larson starting on the front row next to Bell. He didn’t lose the pole position to Bell by that much and I believe it’s possible he could be the first one to move into the Final Four by winning today.

Starting fourth is Martin Truex Jr. It is true that he could turn his whole playoff run around by having a good day or even winning at Vegas. He has had a rough start through the first two playoff rounds and is probably due for a good run if not a win but, his racing luck is going to have to take a big turn if that is to happen. Look… I’m not saying it won’t and he could walk away as the first to be in the Final Four but, well… let’s just say things don’t always turn around like they are needed to and sometimes bad racing luck hangs on for a while. I’ll just have to wait and see on his day at the races.

Although there are several strong and possible winners starting in the top eight, there are others further back that can’t be ruled out as ending up in Victory Lane. Ryan Blaney starts twelfth and Denny Hamlin starts fifteenth. They are both still in the hunt as far as the playoffs are concerned and either one of them could win today.

My biggest concern for today’s race is tires. They have already shown they could be a problem and I do believe it is possible a tire failure could be a possible deciding factor in winning and losing or even being able to move on to the Final Four. Anyway you look at it, the playoff drivers have their work cut out for themselves and none of them can really afford to have a bad day at the races. I admit, a few of them have a little bit more breathing room but…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 15, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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Nascar Racing

Round Two Elimination Race At The Roval  

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

One of the most dreaded races of the 2023 season is taking place at the Roval this weekend and it should be one of the most intense races of the playoffs, if not the entire 2023 season. Things are definitely shaping up to be very interesting to say the very least. With the playoff standings the way they are after Talladega last weekend, this week’s race could mean heartbreak for some and jubilation for others. Whatever the case, there will be four more drivers eliminated from continuing on in the playoffs.

Problems have already started for some and one of them in particular is going to be starting in a bad place. Of course, you know I’m talking about Kyle Larson. He hit the wall hard enough to have to go to a backup car to compete in today’s race. There are those already saying he doesn’t have a chance to move on to the Round of Eight.

Well, I don’t know if that’s true or false but I have seen Kyle come from the back of the pack more than once so, I won’t rule him out until there is absolutely no hope. Of course, you also know that won’t happen until the race is over or Kyle is completely out of options points or win wise. At the time of this writing, he is on the plus side above the cut by fifteen points but, those below him will be ahead of him as soon as the race starts because he will be starting at the back. He has a lot of ground to make up but I won’t rule him out until there is absolutely no hope.

Larson wasn’t the only one of the playoff drivers to have problems in practice but his problems were the most severe. Christopher Bell also hit the wall but he was able to fix the minor damage to his car and qualify. In fact, his damage was apparently so slight, he qualified second on the front row with pole winner, Tyler Reddick.

From this fan’s view, it once again appears the Toyotas have shown up with good speed. It really isn’t a surprise since they have been qualifying up front just about every week since the playoffs started. Although it isn’t much of a surprise, their qualifying speed can be a bit deceptive when it comes to the race. Even though they have been fast, they have also had their share of challenges when the races have started. I’m not willing to bet the farm on their winning today but I will say this. They do look to have an advantage in being at the front when the day is done. It all depends on how they do when all the cars are on the track vying for position. Sometimes, at least from my view, things don’t always go according to plan in the pits or on the track during a race.

A quick look at the playoff standings shows three of those below the cut going into the Roval today starting in the top five. Obviously, Tyler Reddick sits on the pole, Bubba Wallace starts fourth and Kyle Bush fifth. That appears to be a pretty good advantage for them when it comes to the possibility of moving on to the Round of Eight. Well, that is IF things go well and they stay away from mistakes in the pits and other possible troubles on the track.

The problem, as I see it, is that there are several good road racers that aren’t in the playoffs but have a very good chance at winning the race today. Just to mention a few that could pull off the win today would be, AJ Allmendinger starting sixth, Daniel Suarez starting third and Chase Elliott starting eighth. They aren’t the only good road racers in the field but they are starting in the top ten. The others showed good speed but the point is, if some of the drivers starting at the front have problems, drivers like, Ty Gibbs, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell and several others could pull off the win and make moving on for the playoff drivers completely a points thing.

So… two are already moving on to the next round because of wins. Six of the twelve either need to win or have a good points day. Denny Hamlin probably doesn’t have much to worry about and will likely move on to the Round of Eight. That leaves five that really can’t afford to have a “bad day at the races.” As I said earlier, this is the most dreaded race in the playoffs and anything can and probably will happen. Which of the starting thirty-seven drivers do you think can pull off the win and which of the twelve playoff drivers will move on to the Round of Eight? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 8, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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Nascar Racing

Rolling The Dice At Talladega For Race Two  

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

If you ask the drivers what they think of running a race at Talladega, many of them will say they will be rolling the dice or, maybe they’re hoping to miss the “Big One” or, the second or third “Big Ones” and be there at the end and be in the hunt for the win. Some may actually say they’re looking forward to it. The rest, well, they might say they just want to run in the pack, not lose the draft, avoid trouble and be in position to run for the win in the final laps. Any way you look at it, this second race in the Round of Twelve at Talladega is one of, if not the, most important race for eleven of the playoff drivers and none of them can afford to have a bad day.

There is actually only one that can have a bad day and not be affected and, as you already know, that would be Willian Byron. He’s already in the next round because of his win last weekend at Texas and, though I’m sure he would like to add a seventh win to his list for the year, he has no pressure on him to even finish. Of course, I believe not finishing is the furthest thing from his mind.

One of the drivers most talked about over the last week has been Kyle Larson. After a dominating performance at Texas, looking to be the winner and then losing control near the end and finishing thirty-first, he sits on the cutline only two points from not being able to move on to the next round. Before Texas, he had the best average finish of the first three playoff races. Before disaster struck, it looked as though he was easily going into the round of eight with no worries about Talladega or The Roval. Afterwards, well, let’s just say he can’t afford another bad day at the races.

Once again the Fords have shown up at Talladega with a lot of speed and, if there’s one thing that’s obvious and stands out at first glance in the lineup for this race, it has to be the fact of how many Fords are starting in the top ten. Seven of them start in the top ten with Kyle Larson’s Chevy breaking up the Fords having the first six spots starting fourth.

Once again, Kyle Larson has shown up with a fast car but, in all honesty, Talladega has been a struggle for him. Fron this fan’s view, I think this just might be the Super Speedway race his luck turns around. But, then again, that’s just my opinion.

So, since the qualifying was single car at a time, does it really mean much at all other than a possible good choice for picking a pit stall? Generally speaking – and I’m not an expert by any means – a lot will change when they’re all running two or three wide and, with all the ebbs and flows and changing of positions lap after lap. And then there is always the precariousness of the pit stops and possibly losing the draft. A lot has to go right for someone to win at a Super Speedway like Daytona or Talladega and a lot will have to go right for the driver and team that wins this one.

There will be important strategy calls made and some of them may just make the difference between finishing and not finishing or winning or not winning. Will the manufacturers stick together or will they pick and choose their own good drafting partners? Will the teammates of those needing help in the playoffs actually be able to help them? From this fan’s view, there are a lot of questions and strategies going into this one and it’s going to be anyone’s guess just how it will go.

With the obvious speed advantage the Fords have once again shown up with, that suggests to me the rest of the field may have some work to do especially if they are needing points to either keep or get a firmer grip on their chances of making the next round or even the final four.

Of course, you can also say there are a lot of miles to go for the entire field to figure out how to possibly win this important race in the second round of the playoffs. Honestly though, a quick look at the qualifying tells me, though there is a slight speed advantage for the Fords, overall, the speeds are very close for a lot of the top fifteen or so and, at least from this fan’s view, that means this is going to be a shootout from beginning to end…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 1, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Categories
Nascar Racing

Round Of Twelve For 2023 Begins At Texas  

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well… it’s time for the Round of Twelve to begin and it begins at Texas. This isn’t just another race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, it is the beginning of even more pressure and intensity as the Cup playoff drivers try to establish themselves as contenders for the final four. Of course there are still six races to go before that happens but, a good day at Texas could be the beginning of making that happen and a win could shorten the trip even more.

I know it may not make a whole lot of difference for how the race will go today but, the starting lineup is a little bit different than I expected it to be. The three winners of races from the last round are starting tenth of worse and there are some playoff drivers mixed in with some non-playoff drivers and it could make it a very interesting day.

Is it possible the whole momentum of the run for the Championship could change starting at today’s race? Well, although it could, from this fan’s view I expect by the end of the race things just might look pretty much the same momentum-wise. What I mean is, qualifying seldom tells the whole story of how the race will go. It is definitely important for pit stall selections but it doesn’t tell much about the lap after lap changes or just how the long runs compare to the short ones.

You know as well as I do, top qualifiers can drop like rocks when the race starts or one little mistake on a pit stop can change a good day into a bad one really quickly. If you don’t think so, just look at Christopher Bell’s performance so far. He is the pole winner in the three Round of Sixteen races and his best finish was third and that was last weekend at Bristol. If qualifying on the pole was all that important most weekends, the finishing orders would be completely different. As it stands from this fan’s view, winning the pole is only part of the equation for finishing up front and taking a win. That’s not to say it never makes a difference but it usually doesn’t.

So, am I saying Bubba doesn’t have a chance of winning even though he is the pole winner? Nope, that’s not it at all. What I’m saying is winning the pole doesn’t guarantee that driver a win. A lot can happen in four hundred miles and that is the part that is hard to predict, especially at Texas Motor Speedway. He has a fast car, proven by his qualifying lap but there are lot of fast cars in the lineup.

Lining up with Bubba on the front row is Chris Buescher and he, along with his teammate Brad Keselowski starting third in Fords, have looked to be strong contenders for several weeks now. Ty Gibbs, also in a Toyota like Bubba, finishes out the starting top four and he has shown himself to be a contender for a win but he isn’t in playoffs. If he wins today, he would be the first non-playoff driver to mix things up for the Round of Twelve.

There is a mixture of playoff and non-playoff drivers starting in the top ten and any one of them could contend for the win today. If Ross Chastain takes it, it could change his trajectory in his quest to make the final four at Phoenix in November. Even though there is a long way to go before Phoenix, Ross can be a contender for moving on to the Round of Eight and beyond even without a win at Texas.

Even though there are those that surprised me, probably the ones that kind of surprised me most with their qualifying were the three winners of the Round of Sixteen races. Of course that would be Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. They qualified and will start ninth, tenth and eleventh. As a fan, I can’t really see them being happy with running anywhere but at the front contending for the win. Even though I don’t want to make any rash predictions this early in the playoffs, these are three drivers I expect to see in the final four, running for the Championship. Yeah, I realize it is early to be making any predictions, but still, that’s the way I’m thinking right now.

This is the beginning of probably one of the toughest, or the toughest, rounds in the playoffs. This could be one of the three toughest races in the playoffs and could say a lot about how the rest of the playoffs could pan out. Then again, in this round there could be three non-playoff drivers and teams that win and wouldn’t that shake things up for moving on for the next round? I mean, no playoff drivers with a win in the Round Of Twelve? Yeah, that’s something to think about as the season progresses isn’t it…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 24, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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Nascar Racing

Round One Cutoff Race At Bristol Under The Lights

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

This race at Bristol is more than just another Saturday night under the lights. There is a lot riding on this one and there are more than four drivers and teams that just can’t afford to have a bad Saturday night at the races. The four in harms way when the race starts are Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell. Three of them have at least a chance to move on IF some of those just above the cutline have big problems but Michael McDowell’s only real chance is to win.

I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to see pattern emerging in this year’s playoffs. The first one to win a playoff race was Kyle Larson. Tyler Reddick won the second one. Now, Christopher Bell has won the first three poles. Could it be that the third time is the charm for him. After all the first two poles didn’t really help him all that much and he didn’t end up in Victory Lane in those first two races.

I mean, just think about it. If he wins this race at Bristol, he would be the third driver to win a race in this first round of 2023 that came from a dirt track sprint car background. Seriously, Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick are both from the sprint car side of things where they drive up within inches of the wall. Like I said, IF Bell wins at Bristol tonight, the precedent will have been set. All of the first-round winners would be from dirt track, sprint car backgrounds.

Now, I guess you’re wondering why I would even bring it up. Well… in all honesty, I find it interesting to say the least. Could it be that simple? Could it be that we will witness a playoff that ends up being between some of the best drivers to come from that dirt track sprint car background?

In the meantime, there are some veterans that would like to show that they still have what it takes to win the NASCAR Cup Championship. You know their names. Names like Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Michael McDowell.

Being as this is his final year, Kevin Harvick is one that would like to move to the final four and leave his NASCAR career with a Championship. First, he must make it to round two. Going into tonight’s race he is in but, only by seven points and that isn’t much considering the track and its challenges. He can’t afford to have a bad night and, at Bristol, it doesn’t even have to be his mistake or his fault that could cost him moving on to round two. He could get caught up in someone else’s problem and it could totally change his opportunities.

Martin Truex Jr. is a big question mark for moving on. As the old song goes, “If it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.” That’s been the story for his first two races in the round of sixteen. Whether or not his racing luck changes in tonight’s race could make a world of difference in whether or not he advances even to the round of twelve. Another bad race and he is done for this season’s playoffs.

As I said earlier, Michael McDowell needs to win if he wants to move on to the next round. He can do it but, from this fan’s view, the deck is really kinda stacked against him. I’m not saying he won’t win. I’m just saying if he does, it would be the biggest surprise and story for the 2023 season to this fan and many others I am sure.

Getting back to Christopher Bell taking his third pole in a row and his chances of a win tonight, I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude. It’s really hard to see him having the fastest qualifying time for the third straight weekend and not having at least a little change is his luck. He and his team made their own mistakes the last two races and I am sure they have beaten themselves up over them all week. There is one thing I will say though. Mistakes, or the lack there of, can make or break someones chances for making it to the final four or even the round of twelve.

Taking a serious look at the standings of the playoff drivers, a little less than half of them are somewhat safe for making it to the next round. Two of them are already locked in by wins. One of them is safe by points and two of them would have to have extremely bad nights to miss moving on.

With all that’s on the line, the chances of this being a trouble-free race for all is about zero and none. Thirteen of the sixteen playoff drivers need to have mistake free nights and a bunch of them need to get a lot of points or a win. The problem is there are twenty others also in the race and the playoff drivers have to contend with them for five hundred laps.

And then, there’s that other problem that will stare all of them in the face for over two hundred and fifty miles… It’s Bristol, Baby!!!

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 16, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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Nascar Racing

Kansas Is 2023 Play Off Race Two   

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Here’s something I bet you already know… the pressure is on again this weekend at Kansas Speedway. After last weekend’s difficulties, several of the playoff competitors are looking to make up for their shortcomings at Darlington. I mean let’s face it. Darlington was tough on a bunch of the playoff drivers and teams and some have very little hope of making it to the round of twelve if they have another weekend like they had last weekend.

Similar to last weekend, the Toyotas appear to have unloaded off the trucks once again with speed. Christopher Bell did win the pole – just as he did last weekend – and he definitely is one that hopes Kansas doesn’t turn out like Darlington. After all, he did start on the pole last weekend and he did lead over thirty laps in the first stage and the things began to fall apart. He ended up having a very bad day even though it looked very promising at the start.

Another Toyota team that hopes to have much better success than they had last weekend would be the number nineteen team of Martin Truex Jr. In fact, I would go so far as to say, he didn’t just have a bad day, especially considering how he had been running in the weeks before that, he had a terrible day. He was unexpectedly absent from the top of the field for a lot of the day. I’m not saying he won’t make a better showing this weekend than last but, I will say he can’t really afford to have a bad day. He did qualify third for the start of this one but, if the has a bad day again, well… let’s just say he would be on the verge of being a regular season Champion that didn’t make it to round two in the playoffs.

To round out this talk about the JGR Toyotas for Kansas would be the number eleven of Denny Hamlin. So far as qualifying, he struggled to be starting in the fourteenth position. This isn’t just my opinion but I am sure he isn’t happy to be in the middle of the pack, but it does appear he is confident he won’t be staying that far back for the entire race. But if he does, or even worse, he might just have a lot more work to do even though he had a very fast car last weekend and is starting in a bad spot for someone that wants to continue on in the playoffs. No panic for him yet but, things do have a way of not going the way a driver would really like at Kansas.

That brings me to the other two Toyotas driven by Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Of the two, Tyler qualified best of the two 23xi teams but Bubba did look to be fast and could be at or near the front when the laps wind down. He did win last year, didn’t he?

If you’ve been paying attention to the Toyotas at Kansas over the last several years, they have been running really strong and have won a lot of recent races there. There are five of the six Toyotas in the top fifteen and four of them are starting in the top ten. If things go as they have in recent races at Kansas for them, it could be another dominating day for Toyota.

Michael McDowell is the only Ford qualified in the top ten. If any one of the remaining playoff drivers needs a good day at Kansas, it would be him. Last weekend at Darlington was a disaster for him and, it almost goes without saying, he just about needs a win to make it to round two of the playoffs. That isn’t his only chance but even he admits he probably needs a little help from some of the other playoff drivers having bad days like he did last weekend.

Last week’s winner, Kyle Larson, starts on the front row with pole winner, Christopher Bell. Since the favorite and fastest way around the Kansas Speedway is right up next to the wall much like Darlington, he could be a two-in-a-row possibility for winning this one. Of course he will have a lot of company running up next to the wall and there are several fast competitors that are good at running up there with him.

Do I need to even mention their names? Yeah, I guess I should. Pole sitter, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick – (last week’s second place finisher behind Larson), Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace and several others. If everyone knows up against the wall is the fastest way around the track, passing could be a real experience for this four-hundred-mile race.

Only one of all the drivers can afford to have problems today at Kansas and, of course, that would be Kyle Larson but, I am sure he could be one of the ones that wants to win the most today. If he does, would that make a statement about how the final four might stack up at Phoenix? Yeah, it probably would but… that’s still a long way off and there are several others that want to win today at Kansas as much or more than he does. From my view, it should be an interesting, aggressive and intense Hollywood Casino 400…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 10, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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Nascar Racing

The Playoffs Begin At Darlington

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

What better place to start the playoffs for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship than at the track affectionately called “The Track Too Tough to Tame.” Well… maybe “affectionately” is the wrong word to describe the way the drivers look at the track that is one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR Cup circuit. I think “respectfully” might be a better choice. If there’s one thing all the drivers have for the Darlington South Carolina track, it is respect.

Everybody knows how tough this track is and everyone knows you have to have respect for such a tough track. If you do anything at this track, you take what it will give you or it will grab hold of you and let you know whose boss. Many a driver has tried to tame this track and the list is relatively short of those that have.

So, as a fan I have to ask this question. Do the Chevys have a chance at winning the Cookout Southern 500? The last two weeks have shown them to be missing from the top ten in qualifying. In fact, the first Chevy to show up in the starting lineup is Kyle Bush in the eleventh qualifying position. The problem with that is he will be moving to the rear of the field for the start of the race this evening. That means that the first Chevy in the lineup for the start is Chase Elliott in thirteenth.

There are several playoff drivers starting much further back than I thought they might, at least for this first playoff race. I find it surprising that the two at the top of the playoff points are starting so far back in the field. Of course, that would be William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. William starts back in twenty-third and Martin way back in thirty-first. As strong as both have been running, it surprises me to see them so far back in the field, at least to start the race.

Personally, I don’t expect either one of them to stay that deep in the field. Well, that is unless something happens to either keep them there or worse.

Once again, the Toyotas have shown up with fast cars off the truck and in the practice and qualifying sessions. I guess it remains to be seen whether or not they continue to lead the way or if there is something else going on. Since I don’t put a lot of stock in qualifying as to how the race may go, I’m not sure that the Chevys won’t move up to the front as the race progresses. They might have a different agenda which I will get back to shortly.

The same goes for the Fords. They also showed up with good speed off the truck and qualified strong which means they will also have better choices of pit stalls – which is really what qualifying is good for these days – but still, I question is how they will fare as the race progresses. I admit the Fords have shown a great deal of improvement over the way they started the season.

Probably the one of the biggest surprises for this fan is the way the RFK Fords of Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski have performed in the last several weeks. Buescher has won three out of the last five races and, last weekend, he and his boss finished one-two at Daytona. If that isn’t making some kind of statement for how they might do in the playoffs, I’m not sure what does. The RFK Fords look to have momentum going into the Cookout Southern 500 and that could spell trouble for those driving the Toyotas and the Chevys as the playoffs move forward. If they run well tonight, that could be a sign of what might be to come.

Just a quick look at the starting lineup shows Christopher Bell on the pole, Denny Hamlin outside pole and Tyler Reddick starting third. That’s half of all the Toyotas. Admittedly, either Bell or Hamlin could have dominating performances and just run away with the whole race from beginning to end. If this weren’t Darlington, I might believe that but, it is Darlington and a lot can happen to keep that from taking place.

That brings me back to what I mentioned earlier about the Chevys and a different agenda. Normally, the Chevys perform well at Darlington and yes, I know the other makes do also. It just makes me wonder if, seeing how poorly all of the Chevys qualified, they might have decided sacrifice short run speed in qualifying for long run speed in the race or if they just totally missed the setups for this race at Darlington. I admit the latter choice is more likely but, since this is the first round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs, they very well could have the strategy of setting up for the long runs. And that my friends is what we won’t know until the race is over and there is a Chevy sitting in Victory Lane…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 3, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Categories
Nascar Racing

Daytona And One Spot Left To Make The Playoffs  

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The pressure is on. It’s the last race of the 2023 NASCAR cup regular season. Two things are on the line at the same time. First is the regular season Championship. Truex Jr. is number one right now but there is a long shot chance he could lose it to Denny Hamlin. Second, there’s one spot kind of open to make the 2023 playoffs and seventeen drivers and their teams that want that spot. Every one of those seventeen wants to make the playoffs and winning is the key to doing that. Does that sound like there might be just the slightest little bit of drama, aggression and intensity in tonight’s race? Yeah, I agree with you. It’s going to be intense from beginning to end.

Daytona is a race that anyone can win. There are fifteen drivers locked into the playoffs and they have nothing to lose. You can bet they’re going to be pressing the envelope to try and win. There’s one that’s kind of in but could be out depending on which of the other thirty-eight entries might win and that’s Bubba Wallace. He can be in even if he doesn’t win but, it’s not a lock for him. He can still point his way in although a win would make it definite for him.

I’m having trouble figuring out what’s going on with the Chevys this weekend. There is only one Chevy in the top sixteen qualifiers and that would be the Hendrick Chevy of Kyle Larson. Quite often, the Hendrick Chevys lead the way at Daytona – or, at least they usually did. Lately, the Fords have been showing a lot of speed at Daytona this weekend is no different. There are twelve of them in the top sixteen starters and three of them in the top five.

So, here’s a question I don’t have a definite answer for. Did the Chevys choose their setup for the race or did they just flat miss it off the truck? If the first answer is correct, they may have guessed the track conditions for tonight would better match their beginning setups. If the second answer is correct, well… let’s just say they have their work cut out for them. According to the fastest two Fords, they are way off pace. From this fan’s view, I’m not sure which of those might be truer but, either way should make for an interesting four hundred miles.

Two unexpected qualifiers would be Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace. Bubba qualified fourth and Gibbs fifth. During qualifying, they both showed themselves to be fairly consistent in speed and they both need and could be contenders for the win tonight. The other three Toyotas didn’t qualify as well and it makes me wonder if their setups were different and more suited for the race rather than qualifying. Or maybe the Toyotas and the Chevys were just trying something different to see how it would work. Any way you look at it, it is different between the top qualifiers and the others.

Now that I’ve said all of that, I do have to bring up how I feel about qualifying laps compared to racing laps. If you’re like me, you know that qualifying, at least these days, mostly only gives us where the pit stall will be for the individual teams. I admit that pit stalls can make all the difference in a race but I also admit that often the top qualifiers drop like rocks when the race starts. Sometimes they recover and move back up in the field, but at other times, they might have been top qualifiers but never even come close to contending for the win. So, once again I am at a loss to guess how the top qualifiers will do in tonight’s race at Daytona.

There are a lot of unknowns going into the race tonight. Will Bubba come out of the night still qualified for the playoffs? Will there be a new winner tonight and force Bubba below the cutline? Can Chase Elliott finally turn things around tonight and come away with a win or will he miss the 2023 playoffs? What about Alex Bowman and the possibility of him winning his way into the playoffs? And then there’s AJ Allmendinger. His only hope is to win and he could do that very thing. The same goes for Austin Dillon, Austin Cindric and a host of others.

So let’s face reality. There are seventeen drivers and teams not qualified for the playoffs. There are seventeen drivers and teams that want to win tonight at Daytona. Some of them have better chances than some of the others and, since this is Daytona, it is anyone’s race to win and anyone’s guess which of them will.

As a fan, I expect tonight’s race to be extremely intense and filled with drama and lots of emotion. It is anyone’s race to win and, unfortunately, it is anyone’s race to lose. Which ever way it goes, the sixteen qualified for the playoffs will be set when this one is over…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 26, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Categories
Nascar Racing

The Glen Means Two To Go To Make The Show   

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

There’s a lot riding on the race today at The Glen. There are so many possibilities that could play out and any one of them could change which of the drivers will be qualified for the playoffs. There are some above the cutline and some below it and, the way things have been going, just about any one of those things could happen and shake up what’s left for qualifying for the playoffs.

Just a quick look at the top twenty starters shows a number of very good road course racers and some of them absolutely have to win to get in the playoffs and, just to add to the drama, just about any of them could win. Some of them have a better chance than some of the others, but still, a few of them should be considered as likely to win.

So… which ones am I talking about here? Well, rather than name off a bunch of names, I’ll just start off by talking about some of the more interesting stories. (Well… at least form this fan’s view anyway.)

Now I’m not saying anything about the ones above the cutline not having a chance. I’m just saying there are a bunch of drivers just below the cutline that could pull off a win. No, I’m not saying all of them could make the jump into the playoff picture but there are some that really stand out as possibles.

Let’s take a look at Daniel Suarez. Last weekend at Indy he was a contender for a lot of the race. He sits just twenty-eight points outside the top sixteen. He is a good road course racer and he could just as easily win or gain a bunch of points by running strong from the beginning to the end without a win at the Glen. It is pretty obvious he is determined to make as big a splash as he can this afternoon and it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise to see him do well or even win. Like several of the others, he needs a mistake-free run for ninety laps at The Glen and he just might pull it off.

Ty Gibbs is another that needs to have a good points day but along with it, he really needs a win if he hopes to get in. Whether he can get it at The Glen or next weekend at Daytona is the question and the other question is can he run a mistake-free race at either place. I believe he can but I also know how easy it is to make a costly mistake that could put him way back in the field and down in points.

The next two need a win in the worst way because that is just about the only way either of them can make it in to the top sixteen. These two long-shots are very capable of winning and one of them has already won at The Glen. Of course you’ve already figured out I’m talking about chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. Even though they both had very good days last weekend at Indy, the only way they both can really make it in to the playoffs is to win and, since only one of them can win this race, the other one will have to win next weekend at Daytona. (Do you really know anyone that wants to go to Daytona having to win to get in the playoffs? Yeah, that’s what I thought… me neither.) Even though I know Chase Elliott is the better choice of these two to possibly take the win today, I wouldn’t put it past Alex to battle for the win and lock himself into the playoffs.
There are those that are talking positively about Michael McDowell possibly making it two in a row. Honestly, I can see that happening but a lot of things have to go right for him to win. Yes, he did qualify well and he is showing good speed again this weekend but, I’m not so sure he and his team can actually pull it off. One reason I say that is because of the speed shown by Denny Hamlin to take the pole. It is possible he could dominate the day with the speeds he ran in qualifying and, since the Toyotas have been running very strong lately, that could happen.
Let’s face it. There are already thirteen drivers qualified for the playoffs with wins and that leaves only three spots available for someone to make it into the playoffs. Going into today’s race those three places are filled by drivers with points. Two of those drivers, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, are relatively safe because of the number of points they have. Bubba Wallace is in a good spot but he absolutely can’t afford to have a bad day and, if there is a new winner and it’s not him, he drops to at least the seventeenth spot and would either have to point his way in or win at Daytona next weekend.
Like I said at the beginning… There’s a lot riding on today’s race at The Glen and I believe – along with many others – this just might be one of the most intense and drama-filled races at The Glen we’ve seen in a very long time. There is so much on the line and, depending on who wins, so much pressure on those not yet qualified to win that I expect to see very aggressive driving from start to finish. Will Denny Hamlin dominate the day or will someone like Michael McDowell take the win.
Did I mention there are a bunch of drivers starting in the top ten or fifteen quite capable of winning today’s race and they all want to win this one as much as anyone? Yeah, the way this one is shaping up, it’s gonna be a good one and I expect it’s going to shake things up in a big way…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 20, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Categories
Nascar Racing

Road Racing At Indy

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

It’s road racin’ at Indy once again and, because the time is getting short to make the playoffs, this race at Indy is probably more important than it would normally be. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be important anyway but it is saying the intensity is way elevated and determination to perform better than expected is on the minds of everyone that even has the slightest chance of making the playoffs. Winning is the main intention of all, even more so than on a normal race weekend.

I’m not sure where to start today. There is so much drama going on just above and just below the cut line. Some are relatively safe above the cut. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski will make the playoffs on points UNLESS something really out of the ordinary happens over the next three weeks. Of course, either one of them could win today at Indy and remove all doubt.

The real drama is at the cutline. Bubba Wallace is in a good spot at plus fifty-eight but he can’t afford to have a bad day at Indy. Ty Gibbs is in a much more precarious position being only three points to the plus side of the line. A bad day for him could mean having to struggle for the next couple of races to get back what could be lost. Once again, looking at the possibilities and capabilities of both drivers, either one of them could win and remove all doubt of their making the playoffs.

Where it gets really interesting is below the cut. Michael McDowell and Daniel Suarez sit just below the cutline and a good day at Indy for either of them could mean a real boost for them and their teams. As close as the points are between them and Ty Gibbs, anything could happen today and all three of them could be better or worse off, depending on which way things go. All three of them are good road racers and all three of them need a good day but, a bad day could affect their hopes for the post season. As it stands right now, they are all in the hunt and they are all able to point their way into the playoffs.

Of the three I just mentioned, one of them may have a slight advantage over the other two. Of course, I’m sure you know I’m talking about Daniel Suarez. If he can maintain the pace he set in qualifying, he could have a major advantage over the rest of the entire field. Although this fan doesn’t think it very likely, with him taking the pole, he could possibly take the win and dominate the entire day at Indy. Like I said, I don’t think that will happen but it could and, wouldn’t that shake up the possibilities for the others trying to make the playoffs. Daniel is only five points below the cut. A good day or a win or both could really make things interesting in the points situation.

Michael McDowell is also in the same situation. He qualified fourth and could end up with a very good day if things go his way. Imagine if he pulled off the win. Not only would that put him in the playoffs but it would also make for a real shakeup of the points situation for those wanting to make the playoffs and are now in contention unless someone – and I hate to use the word but here goes – “unexpected” wins. Like Daniel, Michael is quite capable of winning on a road course and a win would cinch his place in the playoffs.

If either of those two possibilities happens today, it will make a tough situation even tougher for several drivers trying to make the cut and, in particular, drivers like Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both of which are desperately trying to make the playoffs. Lately, their luck hasn’t been all that good so, at least from this fan’s view, they can’t afford to add to the complications of their making up points to qualify for the playoffs. Both of them have been going through a tough time of finishes even with fast racecars and both need at the very least, a good day if not a win. I don’t think either of them wants to go to Daytona in a must win situation.

Add to all of this the drivers Shane Van Gisbergen, Brodie Kostecki and Kamui Kobyashi. Man! Talk about some endless possibilities for an exciting day at the races. That’s what this is all about.

Shucks, we haven’t even mentioned all the other drivers quite capable of winning on a road course. You know, drivers like Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Ross Chastain and a whole host of others. If that doesn’t add up to a race with intensity and drama and, at the drop of the green flag, a bunch of unknowns and endless possibilities I don’t know what does. One thing is certain, at least from this fan’s view; Winning is the key and every one of them knows that…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 13, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Categories
Nascar Racing

Michigan Means Four To Go To Make The Playoffs  

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The regular season is quickly winding down to its end and this weekend’s race at Michigan means counting this one, there are only four more races to go for drivers to make the playoffs. Wow! Where did this season go? It seems like just a few weeks ago we started things off at the Coliseum in L.A. Now here we are… just four to go in the regular season and then…The Playoffs!

There is a lot on the line for the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway this weekend. Those just below the cutline and those just above the cutline desperately want to have a good race and come away with better results in the standings or a win and remove the pressure of qualifying for the playoffs. Like I said… time is short.

Taking an honest look at the real situation, for some their only chance to make the playoffs is to win. For others, they just need a good points day while others above the cut have bad days. For some that is just wishful thinking but judging from previous weeks, it could happen and that is their hope.

Let’s face it. Michigan is big and is fast and there’s lots of room to race. It can also be a bit treacherous just because of the speeds. With the speeds they will be running, if something goes wrong it will go wrong in a hurry and will likely take more than one or two out of contention for the day. That’s another thing about taking an honest look at the race as a whole. Judging from just about every race this season, the aggression will be high and just about every lap will be run as though it is the last lap. If that doesn’t set things up for a possible “Big One” especially on restarts, then this fan doesn’t know what will.

The burning question on everyone’s mind seems to focus on the Fords. Since they have pretty much dominated the last several years, the question is will their dominance continue? Along with that question, many have asked it Kevin Harvick will win another Michigan race and add to the six he already has. That’s a good question and deserves at least a little more of a look at his situation.

In the past Harvick has had strong performances at M.I.S. Although he is quite safe points-wise for making the playoffs, he would like nothing better than to take this win and work off that momentum going into the playoffs and possibly finish off his NASCAR Cup career with another Championship. Although that may be a long shot at this point, just think of the drama if he wins Michigan, goes on to be in the final four in the playoffs and actually wins the 2023 NASCAR Championship. Sound far-fetched? It could happen and it couldn’t happen to a better man than Kevin Harvick. (Think back to his boss, Tony Stewart. A different time but still an interesting story of winning a Championship.)

Of course, there is always a villain in every story. This time it is the Toyotas and the speed they have been showing up to the tracks with lately. The same goes for this week. the Toyotas definitely have been showing good speed off the truck and their performance in the races has been, well… do I dare say spectacular? In particular, the way has been led by Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin and, this weekend, Christopher Bell sits on the pole and will lead the pack to the green and possibly to the final checkered flag.

Ross Chastain may have something to say about the Toyotas or Kevin Harvick taking the victory today at Michigan. He starts outside the pole in his Chevy on the front row and could take his second win for the year.

Therein is the rub for this part of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season. The Chevys started out the season looking to have a leg up over the other two manufacturers. In particular, the Hendrick Chevys of William Byron and Kyle Larson. Add to that the performance of Kyle Bush out of the Richard Childers camp. Now it appears things have changed a bit and the Fords and Toyotas are the expected better performers week in and week out. That usually happens almost every season with one make or another but this time just feels different to this fan. The Toyotas seemed to struggle at the first of the season and now look dominant.

The last thing I will say about today’s race at Michigan is qualifying speeds can be deceptive and, though I know I’ve said this before, they once again may not mean a thing. Today it will be about speed over the expected long green flag runs. Could be that circumstances dictate the winner and it could be someone totally unexpected or one that that needs a win in the worst way. Then again… well… it could be someone completely expected and they could dominate the whole race.

Yeah, that could be but that’s not what I expect…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 6, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated