Update: Nascar in Texas … The ‘After Chatter’ from “Just A Fan’s View”

(COMING SOON … Just A Fan’s View is moving to its own site in the very near future. Check back with us often and we’ll definitely let you know when it happens!)

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Okay, okay … I admit it. I didn’t pick the winner and things didn’t turn out quite the way I expected. I also admit it did turn out there was an exciting finish to a relatively uneventful and boring race with very little passing for position, except for the person that won and he seemed to be able to pass at will.

Hard charging Carl Edwards dominated the field right down to the last pit stop and his inability to advance after that last stop may have been a lot of smoke and mirrors in a effort to conserve fuel for the end of the race. His crew chief, Bob Osborn, made a call that everyone just figured was impossible and it proved to be the deciding factor in Carl’s trip to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway.

Now that I’ve gotten all of the cliches and expected statements out of my thought processes, I look back at a race that was dominated by one team, (the 99 team), and could have been one of the least exciting races of the 2008 Chase. Although it did turn out to be somewhat of a nail-biter at the end, for the most part, it looked as though Carl Edwards was going to lap the entire field at least once.

The gamble on fuel mileage at the end by the 99, 88 and 24 teams, ended any chance of the finish being completely boring because any of the three of them could have run out of fuel at any time. A quick mention of the top five finishers shows Carl Edwards first, Jeff Gordon second (a miracle in itself), Jamie McMurray third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Dale junior in the 88 car ran out of gas with about five to go and finished twentieth.

Any way you look at it, the race once again came down to a risky call made in the pits late in the race that resulted in another unexpected finish. It seems that strategy plays a bigger roll than ever in how the top competitors finish consistently, and sometimes unexpectedly, ahead of the rest. If Bob Osborn’s estimate of fuel mileage had been wrong by just a little bit, Jeff Gordon would have won the race.

In fairness we need to remember an interesting fact about risk-taking — you either end up ‘the Hero’ or ‘the Zero’. Fortunately for Chad Knaus at Atlanta last week and Bob Osborn at Texas this week, they both wear ‘the Hero’ hat. Had Chad Knaus not taken the chance in Atlanta, Jimmy Johnson’s lead would be even less this week than it is. My opinion is that it was a 35 to a 40 point decision the same as the fuel mileage chance Bob Osborn made in Texas.

It is interesting to watch these two crew chiefs go about their work week after week. They are both very talented and have fared quite well with what I am sure they would call their “calculated risks”. They both continue to make tough, gutsy calls and both have come out winning the praise of those they compete with. I guess at some point it does beg the question though, “When will the luck run out for either of them?”

As it stands right now, the Chase is closer than it was a week ago but it is still Jimmy Johnson’s to lose. The next race could either increase his lead or could decrease it and make the Chase even more interesting by the time the teams arrive in Homestead. It is expected that both the 99 and the 48 teams will run well at Phoenix, but there is no guarantee that either of them will win.

There are others that have the opportunity to make the trip to victory lane in Phoenix. Tune in to the Saturday edition of “Just A Fan’s View” when we will discuss the possibilities. For now, though, it is time to say goodbye to Texas for this year and hope that next year will be at least a little more exciting of a race before the last ten laps or so.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

Nascar in Texas: from “Just A Fan’s View…”

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How can two tracks be so similar and yet so different?

If we take a look at the two tracks, Atlanta and Texas, they are quite similar in size and banking, but much different in age of the asphalt and transition from the banking to the straightaways. Those appear to be the biggest differences from my point of view and it is what gives the Texas Speedway a character all its own when compared to Atlanta.

Both tracks have 24 degree banking and both are one and a half mile in distance, but that is where the similarities stop. According to the drivers, Atlanta is just plain slippery and the surface is old and abrasive, kinda like old Darlington used to be. It chews up tires quickly and the only thing you can do as the tires begin to wear is slow down or put it in the wall, (which once again according to the drivers is in a lap or two.)

If we look at the last nine laps in Atlanta last week, those that took new tires at the last yellow flag consistently moved to the front past those that didn’t. Jimmy Johnson was the most noticeable as he went from eleventh to second and, given a another lap or two, may well have passed Carl Edwards and finished first, but that’s just a ‘what if’ statement. The race was what it was and ended the way it did.

So, Texas is just another one and a half mile oval, right? Maybe so, but I’m interested in seeing how the tires hold up throughout a run and how much the drop off in lap times will be. I think that will be one of the important key factors in the results at the end of the race.

Another thing that will prove to be interesting is that the field was able to qualify this week and the difference in where the Chasers pit is totally different than the last three weeks. It is my opinion this could make the largest difference from the last three weeks in who finishes out front.

This week, the front runners in the Chase are not lined up in the pits according to the standings.

  • This week, Jeff Gordon starts on the pole and has the first pit stall and Jimmy Johnson will not have that advantage.
  • This week, Martin Truex Starts second and Carl Edwards is beginning the race back in sixteenth. That will also affect Carl’s ability to make anything up in the pits.
  • Greg Biffle, instead of starting third, will be mired back in nineteenth place. All of this could make a big difference in the way things wring out as the race progresses.

This week should be no different than other weeks with the C.O.T. Track position will ultimately determine the final outcome of the race and that will be affected by strategies and decisions made in the pits.

I find it interesting that several of those that are situated in the middle to the back of the top twelve in the Chase standings and need any type of advantage to make any advancement in the Chase standings, are starting ahead of the top four. It makes me ask the questions:

  • “Would the Chase standings be closer if we wouldn’t have had qualifying rained out over the last three weeks?”
  • “If things were closer would this week’s starting lineup shake things up when the checkered flag drops at the end of the race?”
  • “What if all of the top twelve were separated by only 225 points?”

These are all interesting ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ questions, but the facts are that the three straight qualifying rain-outs did give an advantage to those highest in the points at the time. Whether or not they could capitalize on that advantage depended on how prepared they were for the three tracks they raced at and whether or not they had part or equipment failures of some sort. The facts also showed that not everyone had great luck in that department during those three weeks either.

I guess that is what makes the Chase so exciting, isn’t it?

That brings us to the “Just A Fan’s View” opinion of who will win this weekend and, as usual, it is a hard choice because of the way things are shaking out so far this weekend.

I know how strong Matt Kenseth was at Atlanta last week and how incredibly fast Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards were.

Jeff Gordon has not fared well at Texas in the past but consistently ran up front at Atlanta last week. This could bode well for his chances of winning the race this week in Texas, but I’m not sure about that either.

It is very possible the winner this week could be one that is unexpected. Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and yes, even Dale Earnhardt, Jr could be in victory lane at the end of the race this weekend.

You see, Jamie McMurray has been running strong over the last several races and is my strongest candidate for a dark horse winner this weekend, but, it is also possible that Kurt Bush could come home with the victory as my unexpected second choice for a dark horse winner.

With the way everyone is all over the place in the line up this week, it is a harder choice for me than usual.

I guess I shouldn’t leave out the one that has been the most consistent and say that Jimmy Johnson is a very strong choice for the visit to victory lane at the end of the race. This is his best chance to finish in the middle of the pack for the race and not lose a lot to those behind him. I do not think he will win but I do admit the possibility.

Carl Edwards is also strong at this type track and with Bob Osborn in the pits as crew chief, his chances are also very good this weekend.

Alright, enough of this avoiding the issue of who will actually win. It is time for the rubber to meet the road, stick my neck out and choose the winner.

I guess my problem is that I think it is a toss up between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon and I am really torn between the two. Naturally, I would like to see Jeff Gordon end his drought of winning and take the victory but, I know how strong Matt Kenseth is at tracks like these, (which holds true for all of the Roush teams.)

Wow, as I said, this is tough, but here goes.

Jeff Gordon will win this weekend in a tight battle that goes right down to the wire and Matt Kenseth will finish in the top five along with Dale Jr, Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards.

Well, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it, no matter what.

See ya next time …

Rusty

© 2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

Update on: Nascar at Atlanta, the After Chatter … from “Just A Fan’s View”

Coming Soon. Just a Fan’s View will be moving to its own location. STAY TUNED for the MOVE!! We’ll let you know!

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Racing in Atlanta was fast, slippery, at times a little wild and the finish … well … it was as I predicted. Carl Edwards won the race and that could prove to be an ominous precursor of who will win the race in Texas this coming weekend. I also predicted Jimmy Johnson would finish in the top five and he accomplished that by finishing second. Now, I’m not bragging but I do feel pretty good about both of those choices.

Chad Knaus once again made a gutsy decision in calling Jimmy to the pits for tires on the last yellow of the race. At first glance, it appeared to be a questionable call that could have either cost him a lot of points or moved him up to the front. The latter proved to be true as Jimmy went from eleventh to second in the single file start with nine laps left to go. He flew through the pack and, in my opinion, if there would have been two more laps or a green-white- checker finish, the end results up front could have been slightly different.

I have to be honest here, I didn’t think it was a very good call that Chad made, but when I saw how fast Jimmy was picking off the competition and moving toward the front after the last restart, I was absolutely amazed and once again realized why Chad Knaus is the crew chief and I am just a fan looking on.

It looked like it was going to be a bad day for the 48 team after Jimmy was tagged by Nascar for going to fast in the pits.That moved him way to the back and put him a lap down. At the very least, it looked like he was going to lose at least sixty points and could have lost as many eighty. Instead of losing points to the others in the Chase, he actually added to his lead slightly even though he finished second behind Edwards.

A quick look at the top twelve finishing order shows that all five of the Roush/Fenway team cars, all four of the Hendrick teams and two of the Joe Gibbs cars finished in the top twelve spots. Kurt Bush also made another strong showing for Penske Racing, showing they are becoming more competitive once again.

I heard quite a bit of chatter about the tire that Goodyear brought to the track from commentators and teams, but in reality, this “Just A Fan’s View” of the situation is, they brought a reliable tire and shouldn’t have to take too much blame. The track is just getting old and abrasive. Some compare it to the way Darlington used to be. That limits what the tires can actually be called upon to help as far as this situation is concerned.

It is my opinion that the high speeds and the heavier cars along with the bump stops and the higher roll centers, are very demanding on the tires and it would not matter who manufactures them. It is just the way things are at the moment. Time will tell if changes are made to help the tire maker even though the word is Nascar says it isn’t going to make changes to the C.O.T. at the present.

This race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was a great race. It proved once again that the race isn’t over until the checkered flag drops. I think that the track and the tires just show us all how good these Nascar drivers are. I don’t know of any one on the track that didn’t have to manhandle in their car in some way or other to make it go as fast as it could and still keep it going the right direction. It was a handful with the slippery track and the hard tires.

Still, I am glad that the drivers don’t have perfect conditions at every track because they are touted as the best drivers in the world and they prove it week in and week out by the way get every hundredth of a second out of these cars. I like it when a driver like Carl Edwards gets out of the car and doesn’t complain about how bad the tires are but says, “It is fun and I hope they keep on running tires like this at this track!”

Well, that about says it all.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Atlanta: Some Thoughts and “Just A Fan’s View” of Unrestricted Wide Open High Speed Racing

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The top twelve in points will start up front again this week because of the third consecutive rain-out of qualifying in Nascar Sprint Cup Racing. That makes pit selection and starting positions easy to figure out, but has caused a lot of fan chatter about the way Nascar handles inclement weather, (especially on qualifying day.)

Because this has been an unusual year of rained out qualifying sessions, (ten to date), it has become one of the hottest fan topics of the year, especially in the the last couple of weeks. There are calls for changes to be made so that it be “fair” to the ones that have to qualify to be able to race in the event of the weekend. This is in addition to the ever running criticism of the top 35 rule. Some have even called it the “top 35 protection rule”. I emphasize the word “protection” because that’s what seems to be the understanding of many of the vocal critics of the rule used to place the top 35 along with the others in case of rain outs and other situations that may arise.

So … I guess my first questions are why is this such a big deal? Why is it that everything Nascar does to keep things going disagrees with so many fans? I’m not sure I know the answer for sure, but I do know that Nascar has been around a long time and they are still going strong and are pretty much as popular as ever.

I know most won’t care to hear about my experience in short track racing, but I’m going to give it to you anyway only because it gives some perspective to the situation.

When I was growing up visiting our local race tracks there were times they had time trials every weekend. When I actually started racing years later, we didn’t have qualifying time trials, we lined up according to points. During the regular weekly racing, the field was set by the points accumulated by the drivers or car owners except that the field was inverted. That meant that we had to start further in the back the higher our points were. If someone was new to the track or had no points for the season they also started all the way in the back.

Usually, the people higher in points sort of outclassed the ones that were low in points. Like any other kind of racing, some one has usually figured something out a little better than some of the others and they dominate for a while. Whether we are talking about local racing or Sprint Cup Racing there is a reason why they call it competition. When someone goes faster than the rest, the others work harder to find the extra speed and be the one out front the others are chasing. That’s just the way it is.

One thing different when I was racing was that we had a mid-season championship and an year-end championship. When those particular races were held during the year, we lined up by high points in front and so on. This worked out most of the time, but there were times that it seemed unfair to us as drivers because we had to dodge the less experienced drivers mishaps. (In reality, sometimes there was no way to dodge ’em.)

Another difference was, most of the time at our local short track, we didn’t have people that didn’t get to race because we didn’t have more cars show up than could fit on the track and in the pits. Most everyone that showed up got to race and in our class, we generally had two heat races and a feature.

Oh well, we will talk more on this and other subjects in the off season. For now let’s move on to one of the fastest tracks on the Nascar circuit.

Atlanta’s no restrictor plate racing is what helps make it one of the fastest tracks on the Nascar circuit. The track banking of 24 degrees and configuration completes the ‘speed cycle’. That means things happen fast at Atlanta and usually results in some ‘hard hitting’ action when something go es wrong.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the line-up because it is pretty obvious form the standings who is going to benefit. What I will spend a little time on is who I think is going to win this weekend in Atlanta.

There is no doubt that Rousche/Fenway Racing is good on the one and a half mile ovals. With that being said, I do expect them to have a very strong showing this weekend. Carl Edwards probably would have won the race in Spring except his engine blew spoiling his chances. Greg Biffle and Matt Kennseth both run strong here also.

I think it goes without saying the Kyle Bush will also be a strong contender this weekend. We know he is anxious to get back on the winning track with his disappointing finishes earlier in ‘the Chase’. Although I think he is pretty much out of ‘the Chase’ at the moment, I am sure he is interested in finishing out the year with a strong showing.

Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick are without a doubt hungry for points and wins and will be in contention for the win at the end of the race.

Although the Hendrick Motorsports’ teams have struggled at the mile and a half ovals, it is evident that they are making headway. I do think Jimmy Johnson will have a good advantage by having the number one pit stall even though he and the other Hendrick teams have been known to struggle at places like this. I don’t hink he is going to win the race this week but I do think Jimmy Johnson will be in the top five. I am not quite sure where Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr will finish, but I think they will be n the top ten.

So … who do I think will actually win this weekend? I’ll tell you it is a tough choice to make but I have to go with my gut feeling. I think it will be a toss up between three of them, namely, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kyle Bush. Any of the three could finish out front and that’s what makes it so hard to choose, but, choose I must. I do think Carl Edwards is going to take the checkered flag although I am having trouble choosing between him and Kyle Bush.

There are also some dark horses out there that could also win this weekend even though I think their chances are less. To name a couple would be Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon. Brian Vickers runs strong but I do believe his equipment is just not reliable enough yet. As for Jeff Gordon, he can win any race he is in. He has proved that over his career and this week is no different. I personally believe they are just missing a little speed so far. That could change, but, I see next year turning out much better for Jeff. I think this year he is just doomed (so to speak) to finishing in the top five for ‘the Chase’.

So there it is, my choice for winning the race at Atlanta this weekend is Carl Edwards. That’s the way I see it and I’m sticking with it.

See ya next time

Rusty

©PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

Update on: Nascar At Martinsville … “Just A Fan’s View” After Chatter

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Well the race over the weekend at Martinsville proved to be a no-brainer if we focus on recent past performances at the 1/2 mile ‘paperclip’ in south-central Virginia. The Hendrick teams once again dominated the day as they have most trips to this track over the last several years.

Between Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon running up front most of the day and the overall impressive showing by the Hendrick teams, it left absolutely no doubt that they have the place pretty well figured out. As the stands cleared, the final results showed the Hendrick cars had finished first, second, fourth and sixth. Jeff Gordon finished fourth and that made his eighth consecutive top five finish. When you think about it, he didn’t have the win but that statistic isn’t too shabby, either.

Specifically, Jimmy Johnson lead 339 laps and no one could consistently keep him behind them all day, which is proved by his driving into victory lane after the race. Having the number one pit stall didn’t hurt his performance for the race either. He was strong as usual from beginning to end and, in my opinion, looks very strong to finish the year out front and take this year’s Sprint Cup. By doing so he would become only the second driver in Nascar history to win three championships in a row, (a feat previously accomplished only by Cale Yarborough and that puts him in pretty good company.)

Although it was a fairly typical Martinsville race, it progressed mostly without any major altercations. Jeff Burton experienced difficulty in the pits on the last stop and, unfortunately, it cost him a lap and some points in the standings dropping Jeff to third behind Greg Biffle who now is 149 points behind ‘Chase’ leader, Jimmy Johnson.

Greg Biffle and his team tried a strategy during the race that ended up hurting them in the final results as he finished 12th, but because of Jeff Burton’s problem in the pits, Greg moved to second in the Chase standings by a slim three point margin. In an after race interview, he said he was happy with that performance and was really excited to be heading to Atlanta next week.

Carl Edwards sits fourth in the standings, 198 points behind Johnson.

The next three, Bowyer, Harvick and Gordon are over 242 points out of first which in my opinion makes it look like their chances of coming close to even taking over the second spot are dismal and would require Biffle, Burton, and Edwards to help them by having some really bad finishes. Although strange things do happen in the Chase format, I just don’t think any of those three are going to have that much trouble in the near future, especially considering the tracks Nascar visits over the next four races.

Looking ahead to Martinsville next year, I know that Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are looking forward to race next Spring considering their after race comments. With their finishes this week of third and twelfth they certainly appear to have some of their problems with the track worked out. They finished strong and look to be strong this coming weekend in Atlanta. (If you remember the race from earlier in the year at Atlanta, Carl Edwards ran strong but his engine blew before the end of the race.) In any case, it should prove to be interesting to see how they measure up to the Hendrick teams in the spring time.

Overall, Martinsville was very much a normal short-track race with beatin’, bangin’ and the usual short track intensity and frustrations. The only noticeable recurring problem was a few problems with tires being over heated by the heavy braking required to slow the heavy C.O.T. cars. Some teams, noticeably, have a lot of work to do in that department.

See ya next time …
Rusty

Nascar At Martinsville: “Just A Fan’s View” of Beatin’ and Bangin’ at the 1/2 mile ‘Paperclip’

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The Stop for Nascar this week is Martinsville. (Wait a minute … you already knew that. That’s why they call you a Nascar Fan, right?)

Well, as most of us already know, Martinsville is a flat, 1/2 mile short track that yields high speeds and hot tempers more often than not. The pits are extremely cramped and the word from the crew chiefs to the drivers is usually something along the lines of, “Hit your marks, save your brakes and keep your cool.”

Now, do the drivers listen? Well … sometimes.

The qualifying was rained out on Friday as well as the practice session throwing a wrench in the works for the weekend. It also threw a wrench into the works for me because I try to get these reports out at least by Friday before the race so it isn’t such, “old News.” (Oh well, that’s racin’).

The rain-out will have the ‘Chasers’ lined up according to points and that is good and bad depending on who you talk to. Jimmy Johnson will start on the pole with Jeff Burton on the outside. Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards fill out the second row while Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick the third. All of this yields not only a good starting position for all of them, but great spots in the pits also.

If we take a look at recent qualifying and race performances at Martinsville, it gives the impression that some will benefit from the rain-out and some will be disadvantaged by it. Unfortunately, the statistics lean heavily on the winner starting in the top ten. that doesn’t mean the winner won’t come from further back in the field, but the chances are definitely much slimmer.

I think Jeff Gordon has a very good chance to finish up front this week simply because he always seems to perform well at Martinsville. (But I get ahead of myself). Because of the rain-out he will be starting eighth and have a poorer than normal pit stall because he usually qualifies nearer the front. This may affect his finish, but he still has a great chance of taking the checkered flag. Tony Stewart and Jeff fill up the fourth row.

The biggest thing I noticed during the first practice was the lap times separating the fastest from the slowest were only about a half second apart. That means the racing is going to be very tight and extra patience will be required by all. It seems I remember from my racing days gone by that it takes being about three tenths of a second faster than the person you want to pass to actually make that pass, (or should I say, comfortably make the pass. Does that mean with or without the beatin’ and the bangin’. All I can say is “time will tell.”)

That brings us to “Just A Fan’s View” opinion time. So, who does this fan think is going to win this weekend? Wow, that’s a great question. I kinda wish they would have had qualifying because pit placement is so important at Martinsville and that will figure highly into who the possible winner will be. In all honesty, it is going to depend on consistency in the pits and that ever constant strategy for fuel and tires. Track position will be the key to victory this weekend along with a little racing luck figuring into the mix.

I’m going to stick my neck way out there and choose the winner of the race to be, Jeff Gordon. He is hungry and knows his chances of winning at Martinsville are very good and that confidence could figure greatly into the victory being his this weekend. This weekend at Martinsville in my opinion is his best chance of visiting victory lane so far this year.

In any case, there’s no denying there will be more than a little beatin’ and bangin’ going on and more than a few altercations caused by paybacks, impatience and frustration.

Here’s one of my all time favorite short track memorable quotes after an altercation that resulted in a driver being spun out by another. It goes something like this: “Look, I tried you high, I tried you low and then, ‘cotton picker’, it was time for you to go!”

Now, I know you can tell I have slightly edited that, but no matter, I’m sure we’ll see some of that happen at Martinsville this weekend. That’s one good thing about the C.O.T. though — It can take beatin’ and keep on racin’.

See ya next time …

Rusty

© 2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

all rights reserved

Update on: “Nascar in Charlotte: After Chatter … “Just A Fan’s View …”

Click Play to hear the JAFV After Chatter podcast

Nascar at Lowe’s Speedway in Charlotte, NC proved once again that it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Jeff Burton came away with the victory and Kasey Kane finished a relatively close second. This was a race that went right down to the wire and was decided once again by strategy in the pits and the way the C.O.T. responds to clean air with the harder tires that need more downforce. It was a really good race and there weren’t any real controversial situations to contend with.

My last Friday, before-the-race pick for the win, Jeff Gordon, made a good showing even after bouncing off of the wall a couple of times near the beginning of the race and getting a lap down. It looked like he may pull off the win with about a hundred or so miles left to go. He finished eighth, (not a bad finish considering how hard he hit the wall the second time and for all of the problems that put him through.)

The top four “race for the chase” standings were slightly shaken up again for the second week in a row. Carl Edwards had some mysterious ignition problems along with just some bad luck. He dropped back in points for “The Chase” for the second week, but this time hurt his chances a bit more. He now sits in fourth place with five races to go. Now, I’m not sayin’ he’s out of it but he can’t afford any more bad finishes.

Kasey Kane improved his position by moving to only 86 points behind David Ragan for that coveted thirteenth place in the standings for those that missed “the chase”. (It still strikes me as funny that we talk abut the race for thirteenth place. Its amazing the value a “little” extra money can put on finishing so far out of first place.)

It was good to see Jeff Burton win but I can’t say it was totally unexpected. In fact, I did mention him in the ones I thought would be contenders for the checkered flag, I just didn’t pick him to win. (Oh well, I guess that means I finished thirteenth this week.)

Now, it’s “Just A Fans’ View” opinion time. There are a lot things I like about the C.O.T but there is one thing that really disappoints me. When it comes to the 1-1/2 mile tracks in particular, I’ve noticed that once a car gets out in front in the clean air that car seems to be able to pull away from the pack. I haven’t gone back and checked this next point out totally yet, but it also seems that the best finishes with the C.O.T. are ones that have had a caution near the end of the race. I think that is unfortunate, but, don’t get me wrong, I like the C.O.T. and I do remember the days when the race winners sometimes finished many laps ahead of the competitors behind them. What we have now is much better especially when the person we want to win is running out front.

Well, that’s the way I see it for now. Next is Martinsville … that should prove to be interesting. Tune in Friday for the next edition of “Just A Fan’s View” …

See ya next time…
Rusty

Nascar in Charlotte … A Fan’s View of Who Could Win This Weekend, (For The Record)

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It is no surprise Nascar is in Charlotte, NC this weekend. They’re supposed to be. I just wanted to say a few things for the record. What this is about is my opinion of who is going to win the Sprint Cup race this weekend.

First of all, I have to admit there is one in particular that I would rather see win, but, I fear you might think I am biased if I told you, so I won’t. I would rather just express who I think will win and if it happens to be the person I would most like to see win, all the better. If not, then I chose the right one anyway, (especially if the person I pick wins.)

Okay, enough rambling. Let’s take a look at the stronger runners in Friday afternoon’s Happy Hour practice. I have to admit that Jimmy Johnson looks pretty strong and actually finished with the fastest lap times for the practice. Carl Edwards was a very close second and could prove to be the real competition for Jimmy. If you just look at the practice session times, it looks as though this one is going to be an endurance run for the two on the front row. I guess I can’t get away from the fact that Greg Biffle is starting inside on the second row. With the results of his testing it looks as though he will be tough also and I have to throw him into the possible mix.

I would say that most think Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards are the two front runners this weekend. Unfortunately, I don’t agree with the masses. I mention this because the same thing that happened at Talladega last week could very likely affect the outcome this week (although I don’t think Carl Edwards will be the “culprit”). Racing at Lowe’s Speedway offers the possibility for a “Big One” that can take out any of the top contenders at any time during the race. We’ve seen that carnage before especially on restarts later in the race. We’ve also seen the absolute unexpected happen very near the end of the race that radically changes the final result. In fact, that happened to Ryan Newman in the race at this time last year.

Tony Stewart was awfully strong on the long runs in practice Friday afternoon and that could cause a person to think he is a real contender for the checkered flag Saturday night. I think he has an excellent chance, but he isn’t the one I believe is going to win.

Kevin Harvick is due and so is Jeff Burton, but, they don’t top my list either although I do believe they will be contenders in the race.

Brian Vickers or Casey Kane would be my dark-horse candidates and could very possibly play into the mix at the end. I think it all depends on how the action in the pits and the strategy for tires and fuel plays out.

That brings us to a couple of drivers that are quite capable, although unlikely, to win. Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon, ( I can’t believe I am saying Jeff Gordon is unlikely to win). Personally, I think a lot of things need to go right for both of them for either one of them to end up in victory lane. If this were last year, I would have to give the edge to Jeff Gordon simply because of the way the breaks just seemed to go right for him most of the time last year. (That hasn’t been the case this year.) Jamie McMurray has been up and down all year, (I guess most every year he’s been in Cup so far, but he does have the capability to take it to victory lane). It is hard for me to choose him as the winner this weekend simply because of the inconsistency factor and some bad breaks.

With forty three great drivers in the field and all of them lined up according to points because of the rain-out of qualifying, who do I choose out of the forty-three starters?? It is a really hard decision, but, I choose Jeff Gordon. I think he is absolutely due for a good finish even though the odds are against him and I do believe he is going to get his first victory of the season this weekend.

Well … there it is. I know it’s a long shot, but, that’s the way I see it and I’m sticking with it … this week anyway. I think it goes without saying, next week could be a different story …

See ya next time …

Rusty

Update on: “Nascar At Talladega … A Fan’s View… “

Well, I’ve had a chance to listen to a few of the day after the day after chatterings and I find that more than one person actually agrees with me. It makes me feel good to know that I’m not totally out in left field.

Although I’m sure there will be those that disagree, I think I’m in pretty good company. Jeff Burton, I find today, stated yesterday that he thought the yellow line should be thought of as a wall. That was only one thing he said but I am glad that my statement agreed with one as knowledgeable he is. It makes me think I am on the right track in my thinking processes.

According to reporters on Sirius Radio, Mike Helton clarified the rule yesterday by stating that in the future there would be no passing below the yellow line, “PERIOD”. I guess that pretty much removes any debate on the issue. I am glad a definitive statement has been made. He effectively removed any gray area.

Now for my own view of what Regan Smith states. I’ve surmised from listening to multiple interviews over the last three days, that the way he understands it, Nascar has basically told him the next time he should spin the person out and cause a big wreck.

I personally don’t agree with his assessment. My opinion of what they told him in the trailer was that “he should have held his line” (at least in listening to him explain it while being interviewed by more than one person on tv and radio.)

My understanding from what has been reported is that they told him to “hold his line” rather than dodge further to the left. Now remember, this is just my opinion, but this is not telling him to take a hard right into Tony’s left rear fender and purposely spin him out. If he would have held his line at Talladega this last weekend then it would have been up to Tony Stewart to control his car after making contact from the blocking maneuver. As I see it Tony then has two choices himself. If he continues blocking to the left, there is a good possibility he will spin to the infield. If he moves slightly to the right, then the race is on to the flag, no harm no foul.

I am sure there are many out there that have differing opinions and comments on this subject. My opinion is, “feel free to comment” don’t remain silent. Speak up! I’m going to.

I think the Yellow line is a good rule and that Nascar made the right decision on Sunday afternoon. That’s my view and I’m sticking with it …

See ya next time …

Nascar at TallaDega — A Fan’s View Of The Day After Chatter

The exciting, yet slightly controversial, finish to the Sprint Cup race at Talladega yesterday left me no choice except to comment. Being a long time Nascar fan and an ex-small track racer I have my own opinion and view of what happened, especially at the end. Believe me, I don’t mention either of these two previous items to brag or somehow get you to subscribe to the fact my opinion somehow carries more weight than someone else’s, but, I do want you to know where my limited expertise comes from.

I have been a stock car racing fan for many years starting with going to the Saturday night races with my parents at the dirt tracks in Southern Illinois way back in the Fifties. After we moved to Florida when I was 10 or 11, I kinda lost touch with racing for a while. Although I’ve actually loved racing as long as I can remember, I never really got the chance to have my own car until I was in my early twenties. I frequented and raced at a couple of small asphalt tracks in our area of SW Florida for over 10 years.

I really don’t remember when I began to listen to, or watch, Nascar racing but I do know it was a long time ago and I have seen a lot of changes take place over those years. I won’t say every change has been for the better, but overall, most everything seems to have improved the quality and closeness of the competition.

Though some may disagree with that statement, I stand by it. When I was racing it didn’t bother me at all to be the one to lap the field. When I watch racing, the last thing I want is someone lapping the field, clearly outclassing them and then knowing the only real race worth watching is for third to fifth, (or maybe even worse.)

Ah, but I digress. Perhaps I will tell you more abut my memories of the past at another time. Instead, I would much rather give my “Fan’s View” of yesterday’s Talladega race while it is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

First of all, it was my opinion the race was a really good TV event and that was because of the appearance of real racing for position throughout most of the event. Because there was an abundance of passing for position on a regular basis, I guess most of us thought the drivers were giving it their all right from the start.

This illusion was only slightly diminished when commentator Dale Jarret asked Dale Jr how the race was going in one of the “in-car reporter” interviews. It seems most were just killing time waiting for the final 10-15 laps. One of the memorable statements from that particular interview was when Dale Jr said that if a person was in second it was only because he wanted you in front of him, (or something really close to that.) It was his opinion everyone could pretty much pass at will but no one could really stay out front on their own.

After some tire problems and two “big ones” occurred the whole race came down to the last few laps and, as is the case normally, the very last one in particular. I watched it happen as it unfolded on the Tv screen and I listened to the explanations afterwards. I basically knew what the ruling would most likely be from my understanding of the yellow line rule, but I did find interesting the reaction of many on this, the day after and immediately after the race.

You see, it doesn’t really matter what I think about the judgment call that led to the declaring of a winner to the race so I won’t give you my opinion just yet. Logically though, what happened to Regan Smith happened for a reason and I would like to offer some input from my understanding of the reason for the “Yellow Line.” Admittedly, much of this could be considered assumption from input gathered from what has been talked about by many. Please understand, I don’t pretend to speak for Nascar, but in my amateur understanding there is a reason for having a yellow line marking an out of bounds area that makes sense.

First of all, did Regan Smith win the race?

  • Well, maybe but not necessarily according to the established rules for the race. I won’t go into the statement of the rule for the “yellow line” that has been quoted from the drivers’ meeting, you can look that up for yourself. What is important here is that Nascar needs to make clear to all concerned exactly what they mean so that there will be no more misunderstanding.

Here are some options concerning this situation as I see it:

  • Option one: Nascar could have required the tracks build an inside wall and, by doing so, that would remove any possibility of a driver passing another on the inside. Since that would be extremely dangerous in case of an accident involving cars crashing into the inside wall, it would not be a good idea.
  • Option two: Nascar could have required curbing be installed to mark the boundary. This would not be a good idea because cars could easily climb the curbing causing any number of bad situations to occur. The curbing could be a deterrent but more likely cause more problems than it would solve.
  • Option three: Nascar could have left things the way they were and have drivers trying to outdo each other to get the shortest way around the track. This would allow driving “through the grass” to the win. In some ways this may seem appealing. In my opinion, however, this does not make for a great ending. It makes the track way to wide. With the limitations of restrictor-plate racing, the racers need the advantage of being able block, (boy, I bet that opens up a can of worms).

What Nascar chose to use was an invisible barrier extended above an area represented by a yellow line on the inside of the racing surface. They use the yellow line to make it easier to determine when someone violates the established rule. After that it becomes a judgment call. If a driver races below the line and advances his position he will be black flagged. If a driver forces someone below the line it is possible he may be the one black flagged.

I think the idea of the yellow line makes a lot of sense, but without consistency it will always be a call based on judgment. They can solve the problem by making sure it is understood by all that you cannot go below the yellow line to advance your position as if there were a wall there. I know if one was there, nobody would be trying to stick their nose in and take the chance of hitting the wall. The same goes for the one out front. If he can’t hold his position next to the line (once again, as if it were actually a wall), he too will have to forfeit his position in some way.

I know this could possibly be an over-simplification of the problem, but, it is the way I see it …

See ya next time …