Texas Is The Place for Chase Race #8

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There are a lot ways people describe the Texas Motor Speedway and there are a lot of ways things can go wrong during the AAA Texas 500 for the NASCAR Cup drivers and teams on Sunday afternoon. But, one word won’t be used to describe it this weekend and that would be the word “slow.” Once again this weekend, a new track record was established for TMS and Tony Stewart now holds that record but… he didn’t win the pole. He is also now the person with the fastest recorded lap on a 1.5 mile oval in NASCAR but… he didn’t win the pole.

So what is that all about? Well, just in case you missed qualifying, even though Tony Stewart did register the fastest time, he did it in the second round of qualifying to qualify him to move into the final round but was only sixth fastest in that. Matt Kenseth in his Joe Gibbs Toyota won the pole by being the fastest in the final round and beat out Jeff Gordon by one thousandth of a second.

From this fan’s view, that’s about as close as anyone can come to not winning it and is just one example of how close the lap times are for many of the competitors this weekend. From this fan’s view that could mean a really exciting race on Sunday afternoon and it could spell trouble for those already in trouble for making it to the finale in Homestead. In fact, it could spell trouble for those that aren’t in trouble yet for making it to the final four.

Anyone that is paying attention at all will recognize the two in the most trouble as they face the next two races are Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Their Martinsville problems multiplied into the necessity for both of them to each win one of the next two races. Of course it depends on what happens to the other six in this elimination round of the Chase but winning is their best option for advancing to the Championship round.

Okay, enough about the obvious things that everyone already knows and let’s move on to some speculation from this fan’s view…

Since Matt Kenseth won the pole and he doesn’t have any wins this year, it is very possible this could be his weekend to take the trophy home for the AAA Texas 500. Stranger things have happened and, in particular with this year’s Chase format, Matt Kenseth could become the first one to lock himself into the final round with his first victory of the 2014 season. Even though his performance has been unexpectedly mediocre this year, he has been consistent enough at the right times to make as far as he has.

Ryan Newman finished third last weekend and is only three points behind Jeff Gordon as things stand right now. Like Matt Kenseth, Newman has no wins but has had a very consistent year as far as finishes go. He qualified seventh for the start of the race but could also go home with the trophy and lock himself into the finale even though this would be his first victory for 2014. I’m not saying he is going to win but I am saying a win would put him in the final four and hardly anyone (including this fan) expected that would happen if it does.

This fan has to admit he doesn’t expect Carl Edwards to win this weekend. He is driving for Roush and it is no secret they have struggled the most with the setups this year. However, he could win and completely surprise not only this fan but many others that have already ruled him out for making the final four. He hasn’t ruled himself out and, in the end, that can make all the difference as to whether or not he does make it through this round into the finale.

In reality, there are several of the eliminator 8 that can win this one and any one of them would like nothing more than to not have to worry about making it to the final four for Homestead. There are also more than a few quite capable of winning this one that are not in the Chase for the Championship anymore. There is no reason to go into a long list of names here because we all know which ones they are. What is important to remember is that if a non-Chaser wins the AAA Texas 500 Chase race #8, it makes next week at Phoenix all the more intense for those that haven’t yet locked themselves into the final four and anything can happen.

Once again, tires will be the most important factor when it comes down to the final laps and grip level will rule. From this fan’s view, this one could come down to a fuel mileage race if there are extended green flag runs, especially near the end. So, what will it be? Would you like to be a crew chief for this one and have to make the best guess for how this one is going to go at the final pit stop? Yeah… that’s what I thought you would say… Me neither…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 1, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Welcome NASCAR fans To 2012 and Just A Fan’s View

Happy New Year to everyone and welcome to Just A Fan’s View. I do hope you all had a great Christmas and over-all great holiday time, but it is time to get back to NASCAR racing. Sure, I know the regular season stuff doesn’t start for another month, but, the NASCAR Cup teams have already started their new year with Preseason Thunder (as if they weren’t working on it before now) and all of them are working on the information they gathered from the test sessions in Daytona this last week. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the season to start.

Over the next few weeks, you will probably notice some changes around this site (and our other site, nascarfansview.com.) I thought I would take just a moment to remind our regular visitors (and explain to our new ones) what you will find here.

Just so you know if you’re new and as a reminder to some, you won’t find any interviews with drivers and you won’t find any with crew chiefs, either. There are many others that do those and have better access to all of them. We believe most of the time, they are great and at other times not-so-great, but we try to leave that to them. What we try to give here is from the perspective of “just a NASCAR fan” that has had the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat at local tracks, win some races and some championships, even though not in the NASCAR Truck, Nationwide or Cup series.

(Yes, that perspective I just mentioned happens to be mine.) Hey look, it’s not that I don’t appreciate or seek out others views, but once again, you can find them even more often than you can find the pictures and videos at those other sites. Probably the only place I know you can get my opinion and viewpoint about NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing is right here.

I have often been asked why we don’t have more pictures and videos of the NASCAR scene on this site. We just don’t do that here simply because the internet is full of them. The easy answer is because I know (and I know that you know) you can find all of that on just about every NASCAR related site. (Hey look, we’re just like you and we check those sites out, too.) But please remember this about us… this is a site that is about looking at NASCAR racing from a just a NASCAR fan’s view but we are not afraid to express our opinion about what goes on in and around the sport. Believe me when I tell you, we’ve been around racing and NASCAR a long time and do have our own opinion about what goes on, in and around this great sport.

Of course, we do our level best to express that opinion all the while remembering that it doesn’t have to be done in a course way. We intend to never use course language, because we know our kids and grandkids will be reading and listening to us. Anyone can use foul language, but we don’t and we don’t intend to allow it here, even in the comments section. We don’t apologize for that but we do understand not everyone agrees with us. We just hope it doesn’t deter you from reading or listening to our viewpoint on a week to week basis because we do think you will like what you find here…

Listen, I’ve been a stock car racing fan since I was about four or five years old. I’ve been a NASCAR fan for just about as long as I can remember, too and I have seen it grow and become what it has become over those years. I love NASCAR racing and this is “Just A Fan’s View of NASCAR Racing…”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© January 15, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and JustAFansView.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Chase Race at Phoenix After Thoughts from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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After the Phoenix race it is down to the two top contenders, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, as the NASCAR Cup teams make their way this coming weekend to the finale in Homestead. They came into the weekend at Phoenix separated by three points and they left separated by three points and that should make the race this coming weekend very interesting. Tony has to finish at least three points ahead of Carl to tie and then I think it becomes all about the wins, (and we all know how many Carl Edwards has.)

I have to admit, the track came in much quicker than I thought it would and all of us were treated to a great race Sunday afternoon. It appears to this fan, Goodyear definitely brought the right tire, the teams either had a grip on the track or they didn’t and the racing, well, it was very good. Once again, fuel mileage had something to do with the finish, even though it wasn’t the total determining factor for winning. Kasey Kahne ran good all day and had the others covered at the end of the day taking his first victory in a long time.

For the #4 Red Bull Racing team, it was a welcome relief to take the victory especially with the uncertainties Red Bull Racing faces for the coming year. For Kasey Kahne and his crew chief, Kenny Francis, it could be the shape of things to come as they head off after the season’s end to Hendrick Racing. I reckon we’ll find how that transition goes, but for now, Kasey’s Red Bull team has been one of the strongest in the Chase, (other than Tony Stewart, that is) and they haven’t even been in the Chase. Even though they will be switching to their new home at Hendrick, in my opinion, they will making the move with confidence.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the teams just never got a hold of the new track surface at Phoenix and struggled all day. Of particular interest to this fan was the plight of the Hendrick teams. All of them seemed to struggle most, if not all of the weekend. In fact, I would go so far as to say, they just haven’t performed with their usual consistency for the whole Chase. From my view, the year was not a good one for them and it appears they have a little regrouping to do for the coming 2012 season.

Both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have performed with complete inconsistency during this Chase and had to be a let down for them. Jeff Gordon looked very strong coming into the Chase, but when he got there, it was as if the wheels came off and he was dropping like a rock most of the Chase. From this fan’s view, he could very well be fighting Kyle Bush for the twelfth spot this weekend.

If Homestead is anything like his weekend in Phoenix, it could be a very long winter for Jeff. I’m not expecting much, but I’m sure he would be very pleased to have at least a top five this coming weekend and it would be very interesting to see the Hendrick teams in general do more than their usual struggling at Homestead.

Now speaking of Kyle Bush, it seems to this fan, when the wheels came off at Texas, they really came off for him and the end of his season. Two engine failures in one weekend don’t give a driver much to go forward with after being set on the sidelines for a weekend. From this fans view it appears to this fan he is having one of those character building moments many seem to face in life and, even though he has come a long way with his attitude this year, it is pretty obvious tho this fan, he still has a ways to go. I’m thinking this has been good for him and I expect he will bounce back from all of it next year.

I’m not so sure how he and his team will do this weekend though. He may do well or there could be more of those character building moments ahead for him this weekend, but I am sure he is glad to have the Texas and Phoenix tracks behind him. If nothing else, owner, Joe Gibbs, needs to have a less eventful weekend at least as far as the negatives go. No matter how you look at it, it has been a tough year so far for Joe Gibbs Racing,

With one race to go to name the 2011 Cup Champion and Phoenix in the rear view mirror, this fan has to admit facing the coming weekend with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am looking forward to some time off and spending the holidays with family and friends but I will miss the weekends of racing we have been witness to this year. Contrary to what many believed when we started this year with the new points system and a few other tweaks to the sport we love, it has been a very good year for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

There has never been a lack of drama for the whole year whether it was the fuel mileage races or the tandem drafting at both Daytona and Talladega. I really can’t say I expected the competition to be this close or this exciting. So far, emotions and competitiveness have been quite evident all year and there has been no letting up on anyone’s part.

It looks as if the naysayers were wrong when they said there was going to be a lack of competition and a lot of laying back until the end of the races. Often, at least from my view, it was all out from the drop of the green flag to the waving of the checkers in most every race. From this fan’s view, with only three points separating the two that can actually win the Championship this coming weekend, I look for more of the same and I expect to see Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart trying to get every point they can in the weekend ahead. As for the rest of the racers and Chasers, well, it may sound funny, but I expect them to be doing the same thing, too…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 17, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Chase Race Four at Kansas from a NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanUnpredictable… that’s what I would call the race that will take place on Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. Well, maybe that is a little strong, but I do know the pressure is on all of the Chasers, (especially those that need a good finish), and Kansas is a very challenging track. It isn’t the kind of place any of the Chasers that are struggling a bit want to have problems at and even though they put on good face, you can tell all of them are feeling the pressure to perform.

And then you have all of those that aren’t in the Chase. They only feel the heat of wanting to win and that makes for very interesting circumstances for all involved in this race. For starters, the starting lineup has five Chasers and five non-Chasers. Greg Biffle isn’t in the Chase but is sitting on the pole and he is the defending winner from this time last year.

Of course, right along with Greg B iffle are a couple of his teammates from Roush Racing. Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are just as capable of taking the win Sunday afternoon and they start second and fourth and are in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

From my view, this is definitely one of the Chase races of 2011 that I think is likely to be won by a non-Chaser. (Yeah, I know I’ve said that more than once, but I really do think there is a greater likelihood of it happening this weekend than any so far.) Let me repeat myself one more time… Kansas Speedway is unpredictable (and for more than one reason.)

So, what are some of those reasons? Well, I’m glad you asked and I am more than willing to give my opinion (as you already know.)

Kansas is a different one-and-a-half mile track than most any other the NASCAR teams face. It is basically a flat track but it is a fast track. The two ends of it are different enough that the drivers have to handle them differently. The biggest concern I hear voiced by the drivers is the exit of turn four. After that, the next biggest concern is the seams in the asphalt. Both of them together seem to make the racing grooves a challenge for the drivers, especially when they are racing two or three wide in the turns and elsewhere on the track and can’t choose their favorite line.

Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying the track is precarious but I am saying it is unpredictable and there is a difference. Precarious means dangerous, risky or perilous. I don’t think Kansas is that. I do think it is unpredictable and for me, that means there is no guarantee that the line a driver used the last time around that the car is going to respond the same way the next time around, depending of course on the circumstances.

I guess the next question is which make is going to end up with the win Sunday afternoon. From this fan’s view, that is the question that is going to be the hardest to answer until the race is about half way over. We all know that a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota sat on the pole last weekend and fell like a rock through the field for the whole race. Will the same thing happen to Greg Biffle and his Roush/Fenway Ford Sunday afternoon? That is a very good question and it is one of those things I was referring to earlier when I said we won’t know until the race is about half over. I don’t expect any of the Roush Fords to fall like rocks through the field, but since we are talking about NASCAR Cup and possibly basing performance on qualifying times, I guess it could happen. From this fan’s view, I just don’t think it is likely and I do expect them to be in contention at the end of the race.

Overall, the Hendrick Chevys seem to be struggling just a bit, but I expect them to be in the hunt on Sunday afternoon. Of course when we mention the Hendrick Chevys, we are talking about those guys from Stewart/Haas also. Both Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman need to have good finishes as do Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. (Need I even mention, Jimmie Johnson?)

The Penske Dodges and the Gibbs’ Toyotas not only need good finishes but are quite capable of running up front, too. Whether or not they will just remains to be seen and don’t forget who won back in June… Yeah, that’s right, Brad Keselowski and there is always the question if his late season surge is going to continue.

This is a weekend that could be a real turning point for the twelve Chasers. If some of the front runners have bad finishes, it could totally shake up the points standings since there are only nineteen points separating the top nine spots. It is also possible some of them could dig themselves deeper holes by having bad finishes and it could be hard for them to recover from a disastrous finish. In fact, it could be that the top nine spots could be totally different after the Kansas Race is in the books than they are right now. (It’s not expected, but from this fan’s view it could happen… depending.)

Hey, I know I’m not alone in thinking this, but this fan does hope this race is not a fuel mileage race, (although it very well could be again, just as it was in June.) There is the likelihood there will be long green flag runs and that the strategies coming from the crew chiefs will play a major role on Sunday afternoon. Track position will be just as important as fuel mileage all day long and, like I said earlier, this race could very well be won by someone other than one of the Chasers. I will stick my neck way out and say this, though… if it is, they had to beat the Chasers to do it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 8, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Sprint Cup at Bristol After Thoughts from a NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanIt’s two to go to make the show and there are more than ten drivers that still have a chance to make the Chase, depending of course on how well they perform this coming weekend at Atlanta and how poorly some of the others perform. Yes, it is true, some of them are extreme long shots and it would almost require divine intervention, yet the possibilities are there. But that’s getting just a bit ahead of what went on in Bristol last Saturday night under the lights.

There is no way you can’t know that Brad Keselowski has had a stellar four weeks since his accident during a test session at Road Atlanta, but there is no denying he has been out-performing almost everyone in the Cup series. Since this is NASCAR (and you can never tell when a streak is going to start, or end) he may or may not have another outstanding performance this coming weekend, but he has definitely taken advantage of what looked to be a bad situation. As just about everyone must know, he now has three victories, is in eleventh place in the points race to get in the Chase and looks to be one of the top contenders for the Championship when the Chase actually gets started.

To say this fan has been surprised by his performance in the last four weeks could just be added to the growing list of understatements I’ve made over the last couple of months, but, let me ask you this question; “Did you think he was going to make the Chase after YOU heard about that testing accident ?” (Uh, huh… that’s what I thought…)

I’m thinking you thought, much as I did, he should forget about the Chase, focus on next year and just turn the rest of the season into R&D, at least until he healed up a bit. Man, you talk about adversity turning a season around… this has to be one for the books and Brad Keselowski has sure stepped up to the plate, driven through pain, a sore back and a broken ankle and delivered some stunning blows to several NASCAR drivers that still hold on to slivers of hope, as far as the Chase is concerned. The only thing he has to do over the next two weeks is stay in the top twenty in points and he will definitely be in the Chase. In fact, from my view, unless he cools off a bit performance-wise, he is going to be one of the ones to watch as the top twelve contend for the Championship (and could very well end up being the top dog when it’s all over for this year.

Now, don’t get your underwear in a wad… I only said “he could” do these things. It is no where near definite and it is nowhere near time to start calling him the 2011 Champ yet. Still, it is amazing what he has done in this latter part of the season.

There was another situation that surprised this fan just about as much as seeing Keselowski take the checkered flag last Saturday night and that was how strong of a car, Jeff Gordon had and how close he came to winning. As it was, we all know he finished third, after battling Martin Truex Jr for second place over the last several laps and all but locked up his spot in the top ten for the Chase. He and Kevin Harvick are tied at the moment for fifth place and both only need to be forty-nine points ahead of eleventh place to be locked into the top ten no matter what else happens. Say what you will about the four time Champ but he is definitely running strong (and honestly, I don’t think he’s peaked just yet…). I’m not really making a statement one way or the other here at the moment, but Jeff Gordon has been running strong over several weeks now.

I’m sure you noticed that Kyle Bush and Jimmie Johnson are already locked in and tied for first while Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are also locked in to the Chase. Matt Kenseth has been quietly running consistently good enough to be in third place for much of the season and Carl Edwards has appeared to be struggling over the last several races. They say they’re not, but perception is reality and they are perceived to be struggling (and not just from my view either.).

The race at Bristol this last weekend was one of the more interesting Bristol races and yet it was essentially the same. One thing that appeared to be missing, at least from this fan’s view, was an over abundance of hot tempers at the end of the night. I just didn’t see that much tension between different teams (although David Reutimann may disagree with me about that.)

With just two more races to go until the Chase starts, there has to be concern in the Richard Childress Racing camp. They didn’t just have a bad night, they had a terrible night and that is worth taking notice of as the Cup teams head for Atlanta. I’m sure if you ask them, there is no time like the present to start showing some muscle and gaining a little momentum…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 02, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Michigan After Thoughts from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well, from this fan’s view, things didn’t go as I expected they would Sunday afternoon. The Fords were slower than I expected they would be in the latter part of the race and a Toyota ended up winning. I have to admit, I was surprised because I really thought a Chevy was going to take home the trophy. Now, I thought the Chevys would want to make a statement, especially since the race was in Michigan (the home of the big four auto makers), and a quick look at the finishing order says they did, at least to me. Of the top nine finishers, six of them were Chevys with one Dodge and two Toyotas. There was a total of eight Chevys in the top fifteen. I would say the Chevys looked very strong for the weekend at Michigan.

The first Ford was Matt Kenseth in tenth with two more finishing eleventh and twelfth. I’m sure that was not at all what they hoped to accomplish, especially at Michigan International Speedway where they usually are the ones to beat. Carl Edwards had an engine problem which caused him to finish many laps down and in thirty-sixth position. Now this is just my opinion, but, I’m thinking he and the #99 team are hoping they’re getting the bad luck out of the way before the Chase starts. Otherwise, it could be long ten races once it does.

As for Denny Hamlin, the longer the season runs the more his luck stays the same. His one victory this season is the only thing keeping him at all in contention for a wildcard spot in the Chase. He took another big hit in points on Sunday, finishing thirty-fifth and dropping further back in the overall top twenty standings to fourteenth. From my view (and listening to him talk during interviews) it appears he is ready to punt this season and work on being strong for next year. Honestly, I can’t blame him, because as I have been saying for the last several articles, he can’t seem to buy a good break even if his career depended on it (and unless things change for him, it very well could depend on his doing better sooner than later.)

Even though the four Hendrick Chevy teams didn’t look that strong in the first practice or qualifying, they sure showed up on Sunday ready to take it to their competition. From this fan’s view, it appeared Jeff Gordon had the strongest car on the longer green flag runs. Unfortunately, it took him around ten laps to get up to top performance in a run and he was also plagued by trash accumulating in his grill causing the engine to run hot and the car to get loose. In all honesty, he had as good a chance at winning as did several of the others. He just didn’t catch any breaks at the right time. Still, he finished sixth and moved up another spot in the top ten to sixth.

Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team showed their usual late season ability to overcome adversity and finish at or near the front. He had a very good chance of taking the win, but Kyle Bush was just too strong for everyone at the end of the day. Even the green-white-checker finish didn’t help him out, even though it did close the gap of Kyle Bush’s lead with the rest of the field.

Even Mark Martin and Dale Jr were looking good at the end, although that green-white- checker did cause Jr to finish much further back than it looked like he was going to. As it turned out, Martin finished fourth and Dale Jr fourteenth. Had it not been for the G-W-C, it is this fan’s opinion Jr would have finished in the top ten, possibly even in the top five.

Brad Keselowski continues to impress with his third top five finish in as many weeks. Whatever happened to him after that horrible crash during testing has sure been good for his finishes over the last three races. With a first, second and a third he has moved from twenty-third in points to twelfth and has been running strong every race. It is no fluke, he has just been sucking it up and driving since the accident. Does that mean he is going to continue performing at this level? Well, that is a very good question and I don’t have a good answer. All I know is this, in NASCAR things can often change to the negative just as quickly as they do the positive. Just ask Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and even Kevin Harvick if you don’t think that’s true.

Whatever happens, the next three races are pivotal for more than just Brad Keselowski. Depending on what happens in these next three races will either make or break the rest of the season for names like Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and even Mark Martin. Wins are the most important thing for all of them, and several others, as the season winds down to its close and the door for being in the Chase slams shut. The others with one win and in the top twenty have to move up in points, or get another win to even have any chance at all of being in the 2011 Chase.

One thing is certain from this fan’s view; it should prove to be a very interesting and exciting three weekends ahead and I don’t think we’re going to know all of the drivers that will be in the Chase until the last race is over. So hang on to that cup holder… the fun is just beginning…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 25, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Loudon After Thoughts from A Fans View

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You know, it isn’t often I start off with statements like I am about to make about a race, but, I think the race this last weekend in Loudon was one of the best overall races I have seen in a while. Whether it had something to do with the fact it was much like a normal weekend short track race and only 301 laps long, or because it went kinda like I figured it would, I don’ know. All I know is that it held my interest throughout all the 301 laps and, although it looked like we all knew how it was going to end, there was just enough doubt and drama as to who might win to make it interesting all the way to the drop of the checkered flag.

It is interesting how the luck of the two Stewart/Haas teams turned toward the positive and they finished the race exactly the way they started it. As we all know, Ryan Newman who sat on pole and Tony Stewart started with him on the front row and they finished first and second after the 301 laps. With the way their luck has been running over the first and middle part of the season, this fan thinks they were probably wondering what might go wrong in the closing laps but, all went well, neither of them ran out of gas and they crossed the finish line without any major disasters of any kind.

Jeff Gordon had a very fast car and constantly moved toward the front. That is, except when he had problems with the alternator not charging the batteries properly causing him to fall back and, at one time, he was a lap down. Even though he had those problems, he had moved back up into fourth place by the last lap. His troubles weren’t over even then though. On that last lap he had a flat tire that caused him to finish in eleventh as he crawled across the finish line.

From this fan’s view, he has to have mixed emotions about the day. Finishing eleventh had to be a major letdown with as strong as his car was and with how his crew kept him in the hunt even with the problems. He should be encouraged by the fact that his car was so strong and that could possibly mean he may have an even better race when the NASCAR Cup teams return to Loudon in the second week of the Chase. Naturally, all that is dependent on how he does over the next seven races and how he stands in the points when the Chase actually begins.

It was no surprise to me how the Fords finished. Marcos Ambrose was highest finishing Ford in ninth place and the next highest finisher was AJ Allmendinger from the Richard Petty camp. There were those that said they could have finished better but they were in fuel conservation mode. That may have been the case and we will have to take them at their word, but from my view, they just didn’t look like they had enough speed all during the race weekend to do much better than they did.

The Toyotas had a very strong weekend also, but Kyle Bush had a very rough weekend. It was obvious with all that was happening to him during the first part of the race, he was frustrated by the day. Still yet, we have been seeing a much more composed Kyle Bush this season and it has been an amazing transformation. He has been much less out of control, (although not anywhere near docile yet), and it is obvious he is maturing and working his way even closer to becoming a Cup Champion. Personally, I have enjoyed watching the process. From my view, he is much more likeable overall and yet he still lives up to one of his nicknames, “Wild Thing.”

Personally, I’m glad the Cup Series has a weekend off to catch their breath. It has been hectic and hard weeks since the last breather. One thing I notice when they have a break is there is generally a slight shift in momentum. I’m anxious to see how these last seven weeks go before the Chase begins and how the points shake out over the next few weeks. I really don’t see much happening with the top five or six, but there can still be ‘a whole lot of shakin’ going on’ in the rest of the top twelve. It also remains to be seen how those with wins in the top twenty figure into the final two wild card spots. It could get really interesting over the next few weeks in particular.

Overall, Loudon was a great race (and from this fan’s view, of course), it wasn’t that much of a surprise either. Going in everybody knew it was going to be a race where track position, fuel mileage and pit and tire strategy would all figure into the end results… and by the way; did anyone notice that it was a Chevy kind of day. Not only that but it was a Hendrick associated and Hendrick kind of day at that. (Hm-m-m… I wonder where I heard that?)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 21, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Pocono from A Fans View

 

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Rusty NormanPocono is not an oval, does not have four turns and it is a cross between a road course and an oval. They call it a triangle (and it actually looks like one), but one thing is slightly confusing to me. If NASCAR races at a race track called an oval they have four turns but this track, being a triangle, should have six in my book. When they talk about this track, they talk about as if it is a road course and it only has three turns. Of course, they name some of the turns and straightaways and that is supposed to make it easier for us to understand where they are on the course, (and notice I purposely used course instead of track in this instance just to show there is an assumed difference.)

Okay, okay… enough with the trivial stuff already…

Pocono is a unique track and it is always interesting to see how the different drivers handle the challenges it presents. Some just love it while others just suffer through it. It is a place you have to sacrifice something in at least one spot to make gains in others and it really does have three distinct turns, each one having its own characteristics. On top of that, the track has three distinct straights and one of them is wide and long and can handle six wide racing to the turn at he end of it. Hopefully, the drivers sort themselves out before they get to that turn or some of them aren’t going to make it through.

NASCAR has made some interesting changes for the teams to deal with this weekend and one of them is loosening the gear ratio rules so it is advantageous to shift into what many call a passing gear to better accelerate off the turns again. That may or may not be good for all of the drivers, but it will make the race all the more interesting.

If they do shift there is the possibility they can miss a shift and that can cause them problems. The expectation, is they will shift to try and pass coming out of the turns by throwing it down into third gear to get a jump off the turn and then back into high gear. Speed is going to be the determining factor on shifting and then there is the concern of how much more fuel they might burn by shifting. Personally, I think shifting is the biggest unknown going into the race tomorrow. I think it will be something the driver will decide on the fly. If it works for them and moves them toward the front, you can bet they’ll use it to the fullest advantage.

So what is the expectation of how things will go on Sunday afternoon for the 5 hour Energy 500 at Pocono from this fan’s view? Well, since you asked, I tell you what I think…

First of all, (and judging from the practice and qualifying sessions), I think the bumps in turn one are going to throw more than one car out of balance and possibly out of control. (Mike Skinner’s qualifying try was the most obvious example of what I am talking about.) One miscalculation and it can mean losing a lot of ground on a race track that is already hard enough to pass on anyway. If they lose it coming out of turn one, it puts them out of position going into the next turn which can lose them positions and possibly a car as they use one of the walls as a brake. I think the problems will only be more obvious under racing conditions and being able to be in the best groove may be a thing much harder to do when you blow the turn and have to move up the track in that area.

Two drivers looking very confident after the qualifying session were Kurt Bush and Denny Hamlin. Bush said he was very pleased with the way he and his team performed to take the pole even in a backup car. I don’t think that it necessarily follows that he will win, but I do have to admit the Penske Dodges are looking much stronger than they did just a short time ago in the season. Once again, from this fan’s view, Kurt Bush could take the win but Pocono is a tough place to win at and we’ll just have to wait and see.

As for Denny Hamlin, well, I just have to say he looks strong and that could spell trouble for the rest of the field, considering how well he usually does at this track. He is definitely not a shew in to win, but he is a definite strong possible to take the trip to Victory Lane once again.

The one that looked happy but surprised at his qualifying lap was Jeff Gordon. He felt his car handled way to good and was still fast. Could it be he will take his second victory this weekend? Possibly, but 500 miles at Pocono is full of surprises and possibilities.

I’m not fully convinced this won’t be a race where someone totally unexpected wins even though it will be a challenge. Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose and several others have great opportunities to be first past the checkers this weekend and look, I haven’t even mentioned the Richard Childress team of Clint Boyer, or the Carl Edwards Roush Ford.

Does anyone think Dale Jr has a chance this weekend? How about 5 time Jimmie Johnson or long time veteran Mark Martin? Hm-m-m… Now that I think about it, this could be another race that won’t show us the winner until they pass under checkered flag first and call out as the winners the last two weeks have, “I can’t believe we won!!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 11, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Kansas After Thoughts from A Fans View


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Is there no race that is going to end in the old normal way? Whatever happened to being able to almost know who was going to win even though you watched hoping it wouldn’t turn out the way you thought it would? Wait a minute… isn’t that what happened this last weekend? Wasn’t this race won by exercising fuel strategy and a driver stretching what fuel a car has left in its tank to the maximum? And what about last weekend?

Yes, it’s true; all of the previous statements can be answered in the positive and NASCAR has been the beneficiary in 2011 of seeming endless great racing and finishes, along with all of the drama and excitement that goes with it. From this fan’s view, I think is just shows what a great sport NASCAR racing really is and that the sanctioning body has made a lot of good decisions over the last couple of years in particular.

It is my opinion, the racing in NASCAR is as good as it has ever been. I know there are many that may not agree with me, but I have to say, you just don’t understand. Competition has never been as strong amongst almost all the teams as it is right now and we have truly come to the time when it really is possible for anyone of the teams to win on any given race-day.

Kansas was a good example of why this fan has, and continues, to watch NASCAR racing. Of course I know you probably have to like racing before any type of it can catch your interest, but NASCAR in my opinion, is the best around.

Brad Keselowski has been running stronger as the 2011 season has progressed and the hard work at Penske looks like it is beginning to pay off for both Keselowski and teammate Kurt Bush. Both had good runs on Sunday afternoon but the circumstances and strategy worked out differently. As I mentioned in the pre race article, Kurt Bush taking the pole showed that the Dodges had a chance to win and they did pull it off.

The Hendrick teams did show improvement over what I have called a lack of speed and three of the four finished in the top ten. Dale Jr had his second chance at winning in two weeks and, had Keselowski not been able to stretch his fuel out to the end, he would have walked away with the win. As it was, he finished second and is beginning to show up in regularly near the top of the finishing order. (By the way, has anyone noticed how silent the Steve Letarte detractors are these days…?

Although not completely unexpected, Jeff Gordon finished fourth and had a very good chance at winning also. The reason I say it was not completely unexpected is he always seems to run well at the Kansas track. He even admits himself he feels comfortable at the track and thinks one reason he runs well there is because the track seems to suit his driving style. In reality, from my view, it was good to see him have a good finish and pick up a few points toward moving back into the top ten in the points so he may not have to depend on having that one win to get into the Chase. Personally, I think he will work his way back into the top ten by the time the Chase gets here.

Even Jimmie Johnson didn’t finish all that poorly. His seventh place finish put him in second place overall in the points race. He gained one spot and his teammate, Dale Jr, moved into third place. Of course, a little closer look shows only three points separates spots two through four and twenty points separates Kyle Bush from Jimmie in second.

Just so you won’t think I wasn’t paying attention, Carl Edwards ran strong early and could have won the race, but the #99 team just didn’t quite keep up with the changing track conditions and finished fifth, followed by his teammate, Matt Kenseth in sixth.

From this fan’s view, the race for the Chase looks to be shaping up to be very competitive over the next thirteen weeks and should prove to be interesting. I’m not sure just how much the standings at the top will change over the next thirteen races but I do think there will be changes and some of them may be surprising to us all.

Now, here’s an after thought about FOX Sport’s coverage of the the 2011 NASCAR season. As an avid NASCAR fan and quite simply just a fan in general, I will miss the way they cover the races. Every year, I have to go through an adjustment period until I get used to the other network coverages. I definitely have a problem with the way some cover it, (well, in particular, one’s coverage), and I just think FOX Sports does the best job overall. That is not an indictment against the other network’s broadcast teams or coverage, but it is my opinion. From this fan’s view, I will miss their coverage until they return next February… To all of you at FOX Sports, great job!!

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 9, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Kansas From A Fans View

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Rusty NormanKansas in early June is quite a bit different than Kansas in September or October. Many already know that, but what will be the biggest difference this weekend? That’s a great question and one that will only be answered by the cars taking to the track on Sunday afternoon. We already know it’s going to be hot and humid but how the tires help or hinder the cars this weekend is a bit of an unknown. If things go as usual, the tires will be the least of the worries the teams have but the heat and humidity may be a little bit more difficult to deal with.

I think the heat will make a difference and a big one as the NASCAR Cup teams hit the track Sunday and one of the biggest problems will be keeping the drivers cool. In my opinion, racing in the heat of the day in the Midwest will prove a challenge to the drivers and the engines and whether or not they last through the shear torture will determine the one that ends up in Victory Lane.

From this fan’s view, the Hendrick teams didn’t qualify well and even though they were able to post some fast times to enter into qualifying, they still appear to be struggling. Mark Martin qualified best for the Hendrick teams but placed in the eighteenth position. It only got worse from there for the other three with Jeff Gordon 22nd, Dale Jr, 28th and Jimmie Johnson 31 st. Of course we all know it isn’t how a car qualifies, it is how it races over a number of laps before having to pit, but from my view, it appears the Hendrick teams could have a mediocre day ahead of them unless they can run strong over the long haul and consistently move forward through the pack.

I have to admit, especially the way things have been going for him lately, Kurt Bush winning the pole was a complete surprise to me, (and I would be willing to bet, no matter what he says, he was surprised, too.) He turned his lap early in the the qualifying session and it did stand the test of the the other competitors, which could very well tell us something about how the race is going to go tomorrow. That’s not to say he will win, but it could mean even the Dodges have a chance.

Greg Biffle hopes to break out of his run of bad luck and Kansas is one of his better tracks. He may not have qualified well, but he was very confident in the way his car was going to race. He and Carl Edwards are favored by many to win the STP 400 and it could be, the Roush Fords rule the day again. I think the Fords are looking mighty tough and it could be a very strong day for all of the Fords.

Something that really sticks out at me is the way all of the different teams qualified. Some of the faster cars from the practice sessions didn’t really show that much speed in qualifying and ones that were slower in practice ended up surprisingly higher in the lineup. Whether or not that situation remains as obvious on race-day will only be known after the race is over.

One thing that all will have to deal with will be the condition of the track simply because of the afternoon heat. I expect the biggest complaint from the drivers will be they have no grip and I also think they are going to drive their crew chiefs crazy asking for more bite off the turns. Although it is true the track is wide and has sweeping turns, it also has only minimal banking in those turns and that should prove to make the racing interesting. The sealer they use to fill in the cracks in the asphalt bothers many, if not most, of the drivers and the ones that can adapt to the slippery feel caused by that sealer will move toward the front on a consistent basis throughout the afternoon, at least in my opinion. In the same way, others will simply do all they can to try and stay on the lead lap and hope for the best.

It is hard for me to decide who I think will actually win this weekend. The obvious choices are powered by the Ford FR9 engine and we have already talked about how well the Roush Fords are expected to do simply because they usually run well on the mile and a half ovals.

Whether or not that will hold true remains to be seen, but I also have to say, we haven’t even talked about the Toyotas yet. Kyle Bush is definitely one to be considered to take the checkered flag Sunday afternoon along with the possibility of either of the Michael Waltrip teams of David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. Truex qualified 8 th and Reutimann way back in the lineup just after Jeff Gordon in 23 rd. Both were much happier with their racing setup than their qualifying setups, so I have to assume one or both of them do have a chance to win.

Even though they look slow and I have already talked abut how they seem to be missing speed, any one of the Hendrick teams could end up in Victory Lane at the end of the STP 400. Jeff Gordon definitely needs a good finish and he usually does well at Kansas. From this fan’s view, it would not surprise me at all to see either him or Dale Jr taking the win. Is it a long shot, at least for Jeff? Yeah probably, but it wouldn’t be the first time he was a long shot and pulled it off.

As for Dale Jr, well… I just think he and his crew chief, Steve Letarte are just due to win one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 4, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Charlotte After Thoughts From A Fans View

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It doesn’t matter which race you were watching Sunday afternoon, the last lap was where you would expect to find out the winner, and that generally goes without saying. What was kind of unexpected is that both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 were decided coming out of turn four and the result was totally different than it looked like it was going to be before the leaders got to that point. From this fan’s view, I was glad I hung around to watch both of them and, I have to admit, I never expected what happened to actually happen.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you what happened because the headlines and news reports have already covered the events more thoroughly that I could ever hope, but if you were watching, you know just how unexpected (or maybe I should say, shocking) the finishes were. Now tell the truth, when the races were over, did you really expect what happened??

I’m sure many of you Dale Jr fans are saying, “Yeah, it figures it would happen that way with the way his luck has been running.” I can agree with you on that, but there are others that have been having about the same kind of luck. A couple of names that quickly jump to mind are Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart. Both of them could have finished a lot differently had things gone just a bit different. Several others that have been facing similar times would be Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, and Jeff Gordon.

With all of the speculation surrounding Jimmie Johnson possibly winning his sixth championship in a row, from this fan’s view he may be in the top ten in points, but so far this year, it has been a bit of struggle for him too. When his engine blew Sunday night later in the race, it only added to the challenges the #48 team has been facing this year. He probably would have finished near the front had it not happened but that is one thing about the 600 mile event… anything can, and usually does happen.

His engine failure was the first for the Hendrick teams this year. As anyone will tell you, it is unusual for a Hendrick engine to blow, but it is not unheard of. Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick fan’s across the board will watching to see what happens in the near future. From my view though, I think it was a fluke part failure and they probably have nothing to be concerned about. It does make life a bit more interesting for them during the next few weeks, and I for one will be paying attention to see if more failures happen throughout the organization even though I don’t expect it.

To me, probably the biggest surprise on the night other than the last lap, was where Carl Edwards finished. It wasn’t that he finished much worse than anyone else, it was that he and many others thought he was going to do much better. This race was a different one and it shows just how hard it is to do what so few have done – win both the All Star and 600 mile races back to back over the two weekends.

There has been some speculation in how NASCAR handled the last few laps which, somehow doesn’t surprise me. I have heard some say the reason they didn’t throw the caution at the last restart was because Dale Jr was leading. I guess that is a possibility and I can understand that point of view. My own opinion is they didn’t throw the caution because there was no debris and all of the cars were still moving and getting out of the way.

Now this is pure speculation on my part, but I think they considered how minor the accident was and that it was late in the race and a number of cars were definitely low on fuel (and could have caused an even bigger pile up the next time had they run out.) I do believe they were watching to see if the track cleared and they delayed throwing the caution until the last possible moment. As it worked out, the track was clear, no one was in any danger and the race ended under green with gas tanks running dry on many cars really mixing up the finishing order. From this fan’s view, the ending couldn’t have been more fitting than it was after this 600 miler.

Just as a side note, it appeared to this fan, Kevin Harvick was the most surprised person of all as the checkered flag dropped. For Dale Jr and Denny Hamlin to run out of fuel on t he last half lap had to be completely unexpected and for him to go from third to first in that short distance after almost 600 miles even more unexpected.

Now I know this is just my opinion made from observing him in victory lane, but he almost appeared embarrassed for the way he had griped and complained to his crew throughout the night; (and notice I said… almost.) Although I know he is very competitive and aggressive, (and admittedly a bit of a whiner at times), he did apologize to them and tried to make light of his treatment of them throughout the race. Since he did win, I’m sure all the “competitive whining” will be forgotten and ignored by crew chief and crew members, at least for now, but this fan has to wonder, what if the nit picking continues and they quit winning… ?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 1, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Charlotte From A Fans View

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Rusty NormanThis is Memorial Day weekend and we remember and honor those that have selflessly given of themselves to make and keep our country free. Because of them and their sacrifices we are able to celebrate and enjoy this weekend in the way we choose. For some it will be a time of reflection and remembering while for others it will be a time to celebrate life with their loved ones. I am thankful for the men and women who have given of themselves, and the many that made the supreme sacrifice, that I can enjoy this weekend in a nation that is free because of them, even if I spend much of it watching fast cars run around in circles.

Now, if you’re just a motorsports fan in general, then this weekend is definitely for you. There is a lot of racing going on around the world, like the Monaco Grand Prix and right here in the USA there is the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Many will take advantage of the coverage of all three and be tuned in from early morning until late at night on Sunday. I know I will and I’m making room on my DVR so I won’t miss a minute of any of them. Of course, the 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is most important to me but I have always enjoyed the Indy 500 since I used to listen to it with my dad on the radio more years ago than I wish to mention right now.

Speaking of that, one of my favorite memories was when my whole family went for a day at the beach for a picnic and just to spend time together. My dad brought his portable radio and while we enjoyed grilled burgers, hot dogs, potatoe salad and soft drinks and our time together, he and I listened to the Indy 500 and dreamed about the possibilities of our beginning to race.

Well admittedly, we were much more interested in stock car racing but we always enjoyed the 500. While my dad worked for Firestone, (I was very young and hardly remember much about that time), he got to go and I remember that somehow we ended up with some film of his trip to one of them. We used to pull it out and watch it at times.

Racing was big in our family and we frequented our local dirt tracks in my hometown of Marion, IL. My dad used to help with the sound at the Fairgrounds track when the electronics repair shop he worked for was part of providing the sound equipment, etc, and I got to tag along. Man, I have to tell you, those are some of my fondest memories as a kid. Years later, after we moved to Florida, we finally got to realize our dream of racing stock cars.

(Oh well, enough reminiscing and back to this weekend.)

This is one of the biggest racing weekends of the year and the Coca-Cola 600 is the longest of its type at all. It starts before the sun goes down and it ends close to midnight. The track goes through several changes as the race progresses and the teams have to keep up with those changes or watch their hopes for winning fade. The first change happens as the sun begins to sink below the horizon and the track begins to cool. The second is most noticeable after it is completely dark and the third is when the dampness settles in later in the night.

As a fan, the 600 hundred can be a bit humdrum in the middle because the drivers and teams are just trying to make laps until about the last 100 or so. That’s when the fun usually begins and it is the hope enough has been going on to keep us all motivated and interested in watching the end of the race.

Although those last one hundred laps will be the beginning of the press for victory, the competition won’t really get hot and heavy until around fifty laps to go. From that point on, I expect those that can make a charge for the lead will and those that can maintain track position by using strategy and taking chances will do so. By that time, there could be some short tempers and definitely some very fatigued drivers.

This is another one of those races that is very hard to pick the winner. 600 miles is a long race and a lot can happen even to those that look like they might simply walk a way with the victory long before the race is over. If you listen to the many voices, they think Carl Edwards has a chance to take the 600 as well as the All Star race he won last weekend. Although that is a possibility, there is no way anyone can say that with certainty. When it comes right down to it, it is still anyone’s race and it could be someone everyone expects, or… someone completely unexpected. I reckon we just won’t know until it’s over…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 28, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions