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

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

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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 …