The Nascar at Phoenix ‘After Chatter’ from Just A Fan’s View

Click Play below for the audio version of this article

Play

Hey, everybody. The race in Phoenix Saturday night was another feel good race, especially if you are a Mark Martin and/or a Tony Stewart fan. Mark Martin taking the victory made him only the fourth person over age fifty to claim a victory in cup and Tony Stewart finishing second made a good case for his going from just driver to owner/driver look like a great move on his part.

As I said in the pre-race blog/cast on Saturday, if there was anyone I would like to see win, it was Mark Martin. I am so happy to see him doing well this year. For someone that was going to retire, (and did…kinda…), he looks to be a strong possibility for being in The Chase and possibly even taking it all by year’s end. Of course, there is a lot that can happen between now and the end of the year, but what a story it would make for Mark Martin, and Nascar, if he did take away the trophy for the Sprint Cup Series. Oh well, time will tell on that one…

Tony Stewart continues to amaze many with his strong finishes. I personally think he is close to bringing home a victory. There’s just not much left to do but take the checkered flag at the end of the race and, from this fan’s view, it could be much sooner than later. I don’t want to give him more credit than he is due, but, who can argue with the way his team is performing. I really don’t know anyone who thought he would be doing this well, especially this early in the season.

Kurt Bush again looked strong on what I call one of the intermediate tracks. On 1 – 1 1/2 mile tracks they seem to have something figured out this year and it certainly appears they have no intention of letting up on their progress. Kurt is holding his own in third place of the standings so far this year. Since these type tracks make up a good number of the ones left to run at, look for Kurt Bush to keep on making a charge for the Chase…in fact, he’s another one who could walk away with it all at years end.

A couple of things are leading the conversations in the after chatter this week. One is, whether or not Nascar needs a set ruling covering the way drivers sometimes use their cars to express dissatisfaction with another driver (like what happened between Dale Jr and Casey Mears). The second is, why are so many teams having problems on pit road, in particular, with tire changing and lug nut situations.

My opinion on the first one is this, (and I know this will cause a ruckus because I pretty much agree with the way Nascar handles it). I think the punishment for displays of dissatisfaction should be handled on a case by case basis. Ones that basically concern only the drivers involved and no injury should be handled differently than ones that put innocent people in harm’s way.

Sure, I know there is a possibility of something unfortunate happening but, in most cases, these are just expressions from too much adrenaline in their systems. Having raced at one time, I know how easily you get worked up when that competitive adrenaline is flowing. You do, and say, some pretty dumb things and, in my opinion, having a preset punishment or rule in place isn’t going to deter anyone and they are still going to express their frustration by using their bumpers and fenders and spinning out the person they think deserves it. It all depends on how and where they express their frustrations with the other person.

As for the second, I think the new, longer studs may have something to do with the problems on pit road, but, I also think they are a good excuse for when things actually go wrong and no one wants to take total blame. Besides, using Jeff Gordon’s situation Saturday night as an example, it was a missing lug nut, not a loose one. That particular situation could be more attributed to poor lighting on the left side of the car in the pits as opposed to the extra threads on the studs. It could be that the tire changer just couldn’t see that one of the lug nuts was missing.

It seems to me, as just a fan, one of the biggest problems is the lug nuts falling off the wheel as they slide them on the studs. Via the television screen this year, we have seen the tire changers scrambling to grab an errant lug nut that has fallen off many more times than we have seen loose wheels. Look, I know I don’t know all of the problems the new studs cause, but, it does seem the crews have adjusted quite well to the longer studs. The glued-on lug nuts falling off during a pit stop have been causing problems for the tire changers all along and well before the longer stud rule.

Well…that’s it for Phoenix from this fan’s view. Next weekend is restrictor plate racing at Talladega…

See ya next time…
Rusty

© April 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Phoenix from Just A Fan’s View…

Click Play below to listen to the audio version of this article

Play

Hey, everybody…This is Just A Fan’s View with our thoughts about Nascar at Phoenix for this week…

If we could actually tell anything about the race from the qualifying times they would be convincing evidence that Mark Martin has a great chance of winning tonight’s race in Phoenix. There are a lot of laps between starting on the pole and crossing the finish line ahead of all the rest at the end of the race and it remains to be seen whether he can put a hurtin’ on all the rest for the whole race.

I find it interesting that all of the Hendrick teams are starting in the top fifteen. With Mark Martin starting on the pole, Jeff Gordon starting third and Jimmy Johnson starting tenth, it looks as if the Hendrick teams showed up in full force ready to flex a little muscle this weekend. Dale Jr is starting fifteenth, but don’t let that cast a shadow on his possibilities for the weekend. He could definitely pull off the victory this weekend.

A quick check of the qualifying times shows the qualifiers are all very close, especially in the top twenty, with the top sixteen being separated by only .150 of a second. I don’t care how you look at it, that’s close qualifying times.

If we look just bit closer we see, once again, Tony Stewart nestled in the top ten at sixth place. Let’s not forget that he is running Hendrick equipment, too, as well as trying to take home his first victory of the year and as an owner and a driver. He looks to be tough in the race tonight as long as nothing unexpected happens, so, look for him to be near the front at the end.

There are four Toyota teams sitting in the top twelve and three of them are from different teams. Kyle Bush starts in second for Joe Gibbs Racing while Denny Hamlin starts back in twelfth, also for JGR. Brian Vickers showed some strength by qualifying in fifth spot for the race and David Reutimann of MWR starts in eighth.

Kurt Bush starts third for Roger Penske racing and could be trouble for the Hendrick teams taking another victory at the end of the race tonight, along with his brother Kyle.

This is another one of those weeks that I am having a hard time picking out just one person I think will win. I do think this is going to be a very competitive night of racing and pit stops are pretty much going to decide how things pan out on the track because track position is going to be very important once again.

It could absolutely be a night a real dark horse ends up with the victory at the end, but I just don’t know exactly who it might be. Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton or Matt Kenseth could simply surprise us all and just run away with it or someone like Juan Montoya or Marcos Ambrose could play it just right and steal the victory away from one of the others.

Phoenix is a flat, fast one mile track and anything can happen. With the times being so close, I do think it is going to be hard to pass but I know there are going to be some that will step out to sizable leads depending on how the pit stops go and how the tires hold up.

I took a good look at the camber in the right front tires and that concerns me a bit. I fear there could be some right front problems as the race progresses. It appears most of the faster cars are running the maximum allowed camber of eight degrees. As I think about this, it could be one of the unknowns for the race even though there has been no tire trouble reported that I know of in either series for the weekend.

Well, from my observation of the week, there wasn’t any controversy worthy of mention and the only thing that is being talked about is how some of the cars this year haven’t performed well enough to to continue without sponsorship so they are being sidelined, at least for now.

If I had to pick someone I would like to see win, it would have to be Mark Martin. He has shown a lot of strength so far this year and it would be great to see him finish out the weekend with a victory.

That being said, I’m going give my picks for the top five for the race tonight.

I am really torn between about five possible winners. All of them have been performing well and all of them qualified well. I’m convinced the victory is going be between about five people at the end of this race. Those five are Kurt Bush, Kyle Bush, Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin. Any one of them could come away with the victory tonight and anyone of them could end up in the garage and upset everything.

Okay, rather than drag this out for another paragraph or two I’m just going to pick the one I think is going to win… and the winner is going to be… Jimmy Johnson, bringing home the victory for Hendrick Motorsports.

See ya next time…
Rusty

© April 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Texas “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View

Click Play below for the audio version of this article

Hi everybody and welcome to this edition of Just a Fan’s View…

Since there was no racing this weekend, I decided to wait a few days to release the ‘after chatter’ from Texas Motor Speedway because the big story from there has already been hashed and rehashed almost since the race completion. I don’t have anything new to add to that conversation, but …

I have to tell you, there are many reasons why I’m a Nascar fan and the racing last weekend in Texas was just one example. It was exciting to watch and the drama went right down to the last pit stop and the final laps.

Now, I have to admit, I really didn’t think Jeff Gordon would pull off the victory but he did and it was just one of the feel good stories of the weekend. With the way that Jimmy Johnson was coming on at the end it just seemed that Jeff was a sitting duck for his team-mate, but, Jeff’s car was fast enough to take the victory and it was great to see him finally break that 47 race drought of winning.

You notice I said that was just one of the feel good stories of the weekend. Another was Tony Stewart continuing to finish at the front of the pack even though his is a brand new team. I can’t say enough about how pleasantly surprised I am at his early success so far this year. I really didn’t expect to see him doing so well, but, I guess I should have expected it. I mean this IS Tony Stewart we’re talking about and he has always been impressively competitive since he came into the Cup series.

Having said all of that, it is Just this Fan’s View, but I do think part of Tony’s success has to do with his relationship and use of Hendrick equipment. His crew chief, Darian Grubb, has proved to be a great choice and the two have shown the ability to communicate well and produce results. It also doesn’t go unnoticed by this fan that Darian Grubb was formerly engineering manager for the Hendrick #5 and #88 teams and proved he could win in 2006 as a temporary crew chief for Jimmy Johnson. He also gave Casey Mears his only Cup victory in 2007 for HMS also.

Tony Stewart is a true competitor and it appears he also has good team owner capabilities and the ability to surround himself with people that can get the job done.

One of the obvious things that affected the outcome of the race on Sunday was the late race pit stops. In fact, the pit stops just about anywhere in the race proved to be important for track position and just about anyone of them had a great impact on the outcome of the race. The teams that had good pit stops finished ahead of those that didn’t and that isn’t unexpected. With the new car the pits and gaining track position has become an even greater part of the race than ever before.

The Roush teams proved they can still run on the 1 1/2 mile tracks and that they will be in contention for victories in the near future. They just need to work on their short track performance and, of course, their late race pit stops. The mistakes in the pits probably cost Carl Edwards the victory at Texas. Coming in for a stop in first place and leaving the pits in eleventh isn’t normally conducive to taking the checkered flag and it proved to be his downfall on Sunday afternoon.

Greg Biffle was coming on strong at the end of the race, but also had pit troubles that kept him from having a chance at winning in the end and he finished third. Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five making it three Roush cars in the top ten (finishing 3rd, 5th and 10th).

Other honorable mentions for the race would be Mark Martin and Kurt Bush. They finished 6th and 8th respectively and I really have to mention David Reutimann for Michael Waltrip Racing. He started on the pole and, except for a couple of miscues on pit road, could have been right in the mix for winning at the end of the race.

Well, next weekend is in Phoenix on Saturday night…

Tune in for Just A Fan’s View pre-race later on this week.

See ya next time…
Rusty

©April 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Texas from Just A Fan’s View

Click Play below for the audio version of this article

Play

Hi everybody and welcome to Just a fan’s view for this week …

Texas Motor Speedway is the home for Nascar this weekend and some are much happier than others to be there. Considering their performance at the two short tracks, the Fords have to be happy to be back on the 1 1/2 mile speedways. They just didn’t show much strength at Bristol and Martinsville. This weekend should prove whether or not the Fords have just fallen behind or if they just don’t do short tracks well.

A quick look at the qualifying yields some interesting results. The Fords have three in the top five and five total in the top fifteen. The Toyotas have one in the top five and four in the top fifteen while the Chevys also have one in the top five and four in the top fifteen. The Dodges have the fewest with none in the top five and two in the top fifteen.

That says a lot about qualifying but once again, doesn’t say much about how the race is going to go.  After the first practice it was interesting to this fan where the Hendrick cars were in the speed charts.  Although I don’t put much stock in the first practice, all four were in the top eight. If we only look at the first practice, it would seem they have a pretty good grip on the top ten but, there was plenty time remaining for the rest of the field to catch up in the other practices (and there was still plenty of time for the Hendrick cars to possibly mess things up). All of this would be interesting to consider if only there weren’t those other two practices to consider.

After the other two practice sessions for The Cup racers, things became a little more mixed than they were earlier. It seems that some of the ones that were running strong early on are now a bit further back in the pack. To Just A Fan’s View, that makes  for interesting scenarios for tomorrows race.

It is my opinion it is going to be a typical race at the Texas Motor Speedway. High speeds and long green flag runs with track position made up in the pits with different pit strategies making the difference at the end of the day.

Once again, it is going to come down to the end of the race before the winner is really known. Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Bush look awfully tough for taking the checkered flag this weekend and I can’t discount the performance of  Denny Hamlin. It looks to me as though the Gibbs teams could be a major factor at the end of he race.

I can’t rule out the Roush guys either. Once again, Jamie McMurray comes to mind along with Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards. They look to be strong as they always do at the 1 1/2 mile tracks and, in particular, at Texas. I also know that we can’t rule Greg Biffle out of the mix either, but it does appear he is struggling a bit so far.  That doesn’t mean he won’t be there at the end, it just means during practice he wasn’t quite up to the speed of the other guys.

Well, I know I could probably mention every other driver in the lineup as well, but I really don’t want to go there. Several of the teams are on a mission this weekend and anything could happen. I just don’t think Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Bush are going to give the other guys much of a chance. Both looked very comfortable and very strong in the last practice sessions and, barring anything unforeseen, I expect them to be the ones battling it out at the end.

I have mixed emotions about the other ones that will be in the top five at the end of the race, but that won’t stop me from giving you my picks anyway. The top five, the way I see it, is going to be a race between the Fords, Toyotas and Chevys. I don’t see the Dodges being in the top five but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to run well. I mean, look at what Kurt Bush did in Atlanta.

Although David Reutimann has the pole and good practice times, I don’t see him being there in the top five at the end. I pick him to be more in the top ten. I do believe Jeff Gordon will finish in the top ten also, but he is the one that may surprise me at the end, (I just don’t know for sure).

So here it is, my picks for the top five. I think Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin are going to be following Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Bush across the finish line at the end of the race. It’s a hard one to call but I do think Jimmy Johnson is going to take home the trophy with Kyle Bush in close pursuit.

See ya next time…

Rusty

©April 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Martinsville “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View

Click Play below for the audio version of this article
Play

Hi, everybody and welcome to the Martinsville After Chatter from Just A Fan’s View…

Martinsville lived up to the expectations of short track excitement and, no, the guy I picked didn’t win. (Oh, but you already knew that didn’t you. Hey, it was just my opinion considering the available information at the time.)

Oh well, all in all, it was an interesting race chock full of what every Nascar fan likes about the short tracks included in the schedule. There was beatin’ and bangin’ and all of the other things that go along with fast and tight, short track racing like short tempers and paybacks. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole race even though there were a couple of longer green flag runs that came close to being humdrum, but fortunately,  it never really got there.

I won’t spend a lot of time today talking about the race — it was a great race — but I would like to mention a couple of things that caught my attention in particular.

The last laps and restarts between Jimmy Johnson and Denny Hamlin were every bit about why people like short tracks. The drivers have to be aggressive and that’s exactly what both of them were. Both of them took what the other wasn’t willing to give up. It was a great finish.

But that wasn’t what caught my attention, either. It was after the race when Denny Hamlin was being interviewed about the end of the race action between him and Jimmy Johnson. I was not only impressed but thoroughly surprised at the level of maturity he has reached. In the past, (and this is just my assessment of his reactions), he had a tendency to blame everybody and everything for his failure to win. This time, it seemed he enjoyed his performance, (which he should have), and simply stated that both of them were going for the same real estate in typical Martinsville, short track fashion and the next time, if the opportunity presents itself and the roles are reversed he will probably do the same thing that Jimmy did. In fact he said he would definitely do it.

His reaction impressed me and I have more respect for him than I did before. It also makes me look forward to the next short track race and hope the two of them are right in there, mixing it up at the end.

Well, another thing thing that caught my attention on Sunday was the overall dominance of the Hendrick teams and equipment at Martinsville. All four of the Hendrick racing teams finished in the top eight. Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman were in that mix as well, (and aren’t they also running Hendrick equipment.)

From this fan’s view, I think Stewart/Haas racing has been the biggest surprise so far in the early season. I won’t say I didn’t expect Tony’s teams to perform well, I just didn’t think they would be performing as well as they have so early in the season. It has been a pleasant surprise so far.

It has also been interesting to note the absence of the Roush cars near the front at the end of the last couple of races in particular. Jamie McMurray’s 10th place finish was the best of all the Roush teams this week. To me, that’s a bit surprising. I do expect to hear more from them in the coming weeks at the mile and a half race tracks in particular, which is one of their strengths.

This is Just A Fan’s View observation, but, this has been an interesting year so far. A year that started out with a lot of question marks has proved to be one of opportunity for some, disappointment for others and one that has actually exceeded expectations in many ways. There have been plenty of fans and plenty of cars, although some have not been as competitive as they would have liked to be I’m sure. It has been a time for some newer faces to show they have what it takes to be competitive at the Cup level of Nascar while others have managed to just hold their own.

From my view as ‘Just A Fan’, I have been pleasantly surprised by the efforts of Nascar, the tracks and the fans, (although I probably shouldn’t have been.)  Nascar is a great sport and I am proud of all involved, whether it be the owners, drivers, team members or fans. To me, Nascar is one of the brighter spots in a time of great frustration and anxiety.  I am glad they are as strong as they are and I am glad they all do what they do so well.

Well, next stop is Texas and I can’t wait…

See ya next time …

Rusty

© April 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Martinsville: More Short Track Fun…

Click Play below for the audio version of this article

Play

Hi, everybody. My name is Russ and I’d like to welcome you to the  Martinsville pre-race for this week … and this is  “Just A Fan’s View”.

With all of the rain problems this weekend it could either make for one of the most interesting, or dull, spring races at Martinsville. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this one is really hard to determine just how it is going to turn out. It would be nice to have been able to have qualifying and the final practice, but, it wasn’t meant to be.

As everyone already knows, that means the  field lines up according to owner points and that doesn’t tell much about how the racing will actually go.

One thing I can say is it sure looks as though the lineup will offer some advantage to those up front even though they may not be prepared to run up there at all. In looking at the lineup though, all of the ones in the top ten know how to get around the Martinsville track and any one of the could win in the end. In fact, if you look at the top twenty, you find most of them could pull off the victory themselves.

It’s weekends like this that makes trying to decide who will win kinda like a driver who’s car just isn’t quite where he wants it to be. He’d like to have about twenty or thirty more laps to try something different. That’s the way it is for me, too. I would like a little more info from the last practice (that they didn’t get to have) so I could better judge who got a better grip on the track. Well, it just ain’t gonna happen this week so I’ll just have to make the best of it…

There are a few things to consider before making a choice for the winner of the race this weekend. One of the most important things is that the track is going to be completely green. If there was any rubber on it, it’s completely gone by the time of this writing. One of the good things is that the sun is going to shine on Sunday and the temp will be in the comfortable upper 60’s. That should make it interesting, especially when they hit the first turn after the green flag drops. I’ll be looking to see how certain drivers do after about twenty or so green flag laps. I do think we will find who has a pretty good setup after the first 30 -40 laps of green.

With Jeff Gordon starting on the pole and having the number one pit stall, I’d say he is starting right where he would have wanted to even if they would have had qualifying. What will make the whole thing interesting is that Kurt Bush is starting outside pole and Kyle Bush is starting outside second row. As strong as the Bush brothers have been in recent weeks, it makes a whole lot of difference for them being able to start up front and have better pit stalls, too, even though Kyle says Martinsville isn’t one of his better tracks. Who knows, starting up front may just be what he needs to turn his luck around at the track.

Oh well, enough beating around the “Bush-es” … it’s time to make the choices for this weekend.

As I look over the top 20 starters, I see a number that could end up in victory lane, (that’s what makes this race a hard one to pick the winner in.) I see names like Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Brian Vickers to name a few and any one of them could win.

Closer to the front, we see drivers like Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Bush, Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon. The problem I have is not enough data to make a good pick so, I guess I’ll just have to fly by the seat of pants.

Going on past performances at this track I just about have to choose one of the Hendrick teams. Even though there are others I think could show up and take the checkered flag at the end I still think it’s going to be a race between Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

So which one do I pick… hmmm … it’s a tough one …

Well, I pick Jeff Gordon, mostly because he is leading in the points and because I think he is definitely going to break his losing streak and because I really think the team is due. Even after making my choice, I still think it is going to be an interesting race, right down to the end and because of the lack of time on the track, there could be some big surprises in store at the end… who knows for sure, it could be Mark Martin or Marcos Ambrose sitting in victory circle when all it is said and done…

See ya next time…

Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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

Click the play button below for the power point/audio version of this article.

Click Play Button below for the audio only version

Play

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Bristol update from Just A Fan’s View. I’m really glad you could be with me today…

Well, there is absolutely no other way to put it, Kyle Bush dominated the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, (that’s a nice way saying, “He kicked butt at Bristol”) . It seemed he could move through the pack at will and was hardly challenged at all, although the final laps were run under the “green-white-checker” rules. It was pretty obvious to this fan that he was going to take the checkered flag and the trophy, even before the final green flag dropped. He was just too strong.

Noticeably absent from the top ten were the Roush teams. The only Roush Ford team finishing in the top 15 was Carl Edwards and he finished 15th. It looks as though what I said about the Fords being a little deficient came to pass even more evidently than I suspected it would. I am sure they were terribly disappointed overall as an organization, (and who could blame them?) It’s only the 5th race of the season though, so I guess we’ll will have to see what happens over the next 4-6 weeks to determine if they are going to struggle most of the year. (Frankly, I don’t think it will be that way, but, stranger things have happened.)

From my viewpoint, there weren’t any outstanding controversies this last week so there isn’t a lot of noticeable drama going on behind the scenes in Nascar. It seems that so far this year, it’s just been good hard racing, peppered with a few feel good stories.

Unfortunately, some of the feel good team stories we started out with this year at Daytona are not turning out as many had hoped and some of the new team owners are feeling the pinch of finances and not qualifying for a couple of races in a row. My heart really goes out to those guys and I know that many are still pulling for them to be able continue on in Sprint Cup Racing.

Well, the Gibbs and Hendrick teams are really showing a lot of strength here at the beginning of the year. It remains to be seen whether their strong starts to this season carries all through the season.  There are a few others standing in the wings waiting to show what they can do in the coming weeks.

It is my opinion we will see at least 4 or 5 of the top ten in points right now in the running for the top spot in the championship at the end of the year, but, we’ll talk more about that in coming weeks. It is way too early to start thinking about that with only 5 races in the books. A lot can still happen in a lot of ways by the time we start the actual chase.

Well I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Martinsville this weekend.  I’m hoping, along with a lot of others, the weather holds this weekend so that everyone gets at least a chance to qualify. I really want to see who gets the pole and who races their way into the race this week. Qualifying is definitely important in several ways for Martinsville. Although I know how the system works, I’m hoping for good weather.

See ya next time…

Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Bristol: High-Banked, Short-Track Excitment!

Double Click play button for the Media/Audio presentation of this article

___________________________________________________

Double Click play button below for the audio only of this podcast

Play

Hello again everyone, and welcome to Just A Fan’s View for this week. My name is Russ and I am so glad to be with you, today.

Let me start right off by saying, I’ve already been corrected by one my reader/listeners in what I said about Darlington a couple of weeks ago. It is one of those situations that, after the fact, I agree that it did sound as if I had already closed the track down but that’s not quite what I meant. When I said, “The way Darlington used to eat up tires and the fastest way around used to be way up against the wall”, and “In its day, that left a lot of cars with the well known Darlington stripe”, it led some to believe that I meant the track was no longer being raced on. I can see that, now.

What I should have done is left out the words “used to”. If I would have done that there probably would have been no confusion. As it is, let me simply say that I was talking of Darlington in its Glory days; when it had no ‘safer barriers’ and the stands were filled to capacity. Now, don’t misunderstand me, but to this observer, it seems as though it has seen better days but it still has great races and I always look forward to it.

Okay, I admit that was a little confusing and with that out of the way, let’s move on to Bristol.

I’ve only been to Bristol, TN one time and, unfortunately it wasn’t during a race weekend. I think the track at Bristol is in a beautiful area and one day I hope to go there again, hopefully on a race day.

There’s a reason why it is so popular. It has all the things that make short track racing so popular and appealing to the fans. Things like being able to see the whole track from about any seat in the house. Then there’s those high banked turns (36 degrees) transitioning onto 16 degree banked straights making for great speed and action and, of course, the beatin’ and bangin’ that causes short tempers, hurt feelings and sometimes, paybacks but always great racing.

Hey, I’m just a fan, but I used to race and I understand the difference between “just racin'” and intentionally being put out by someone. Mostly what we see at Bristol is just good hard racing but I have to admit, sometimes a driver or two (that’s and understatement in case you’re wondering) have been known to get very impatient.

Mark Martin took his second pole in a row. Although I don’t put much stock in qualifying when it comes to race outcomes, it is interesting to note Mark Martin has been showing some strength this year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if he can get rid of the gremlins that have been hounding him he will be in victory lane and he will be there more than once this year.

I found it interesting how the qualifying went yesterday. Several of the ones I thought would be in the front of the pack are in the middle or the back of the pack. Drivers like Kevin Harvick starting 30th and Kurt Bush starting 32nd, Matt Kenseth 33rd, Dale Jr 34th, even Carl Edwards starting 38th. I know any one of them has the ability to move up through the pack and take the checkered flag, but, they do have their work cut out for them.

As a fan, I could go on and on about the race this weekend but, I don’t think it’s necessary this week because everybody is going to do that. I’d like to get right to the part where I choose the way I think the race is going to end and who is going to win and that’s what I’m going to do.

I think this is going to be a weekend that the ones that start up front are going to stay up front, that is, unless something unexpected happens. Let’s face facts. If someone starts in the back they basically start a half a lap behind. Unless they can break free of the slower traffic around them, there is a pretty good chance they could go a lap down to the leaders fairly quickly. The emphasis this week is going to be, stay cool, stay out of trouble and don’t have any (I emphasize, any) bad pit stops. It is a 500 lap race so the idea is to stay consistent and be patient.

I decided to wait until after the second practice this weekend to declare my choice for winning. I do think it is going to be an interesting race with several long green flag runs and several cautions.

If someone gets too high look out because they could collect a few innocent victims after picking up all of that rubber that accumulates as the race progresses and they spin down in front of the field.

So who do I think is going to be taking the trip to victory lane this weekend. You just had to ask, didn’t you? Well, here goes…

This is a week that I’m just not sure. Last year, Jeff Burton won the spring race and only led the last two laps. In the past, winners have come from just about anywhere in the top of the starting order. Whoever has the best luck this weekend is the one that is going to win. My choices for the top five at the end of the race are Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush and (who else) Jeff Gordon. There are few others I think will figure in at the end like, Jimmy Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and even Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne.

But, Bristol is just too hard to call simply because it is short track racing and anything can happen and probably will. I think this is the weekend that Mark Martin is going to throw off the gremlins and finish in the top five but I just don’t think he is going to be the winner. Kevin Harvick looked good in the final practice and so did Jeff Burton. It looks to me as though the Fords are struggling a bit this weekend so it is hard for me to choose one them even though Greg Biffle or Jamie McMurray could surprise me. That being said, I don’t think so. It could also be Jimmy Johnson or Kyle Bush, but, as I said I just don’t think so.

So who is it going to be???

I think Jeff Gordon is going to finally end that no win streak this weekend. He is a five time winner at the track and has been running strong at the end of every race this year. I think this is his week to take the trophy in Victory Lane.

Okay, now the mold is set and it just remains to see how everything turns out…

See ya next time…

Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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

Play

Well, Atlanta did prove to be a place full of surprises this last weekend. It appears the track did yield unexpected results this time and nobody expected to have as much trouble with handling as they did. It wasn’t the tires, though, as Goodyear brought good tires tested and proven to perform at the track. When all was said and done it was just the warm weather and the old worn out track surface.

I think Kurt Bush called it right in his after-race interview in Victory Lane at Atlanta Sunday. He said the old place drove a lot like old Darlington. He wasn’t alone in his feelings as several of the racers expressed similar sentiments and they were obviously referring to the way Darlington used to eat up tires and the fastest way around Darlington was way up against the wall. In its day, that left a lot of cars with the well known “Darlington Stripe” and this week it was the “Atlanta Stripe” that left its mark.

As I stated in the pre-race chatter, I knew Kurt Bush would be strong this weekend. The reason I didn’t expect him to come away with the win was because of the engine problems he had in the previous weeks. I just didn’t have confidence in the new Dodge engine under the hood. Well, not only did he have the horsepower and reliability, but handling-wise, he and his team “put a whoopin'” on the rest of the field. He was very consistent all race long and, even when they got slightly off during a green-flag run, they quickly got back to form on the next pit stop. I think this weekend proved that Kurt is a force to be reckoned with for The Chase and the maybe even the  championship this year. Hat’s off to the Penske teams.

I still believe, if Mark Martin ever gets rid of the gremlins that have been hounding him for the last few weeks, he will definitely be in Victory Lane soon and probably more than once. The last couple of weeks it was engine problems. This last weekend it was a tire that took him out of contention. Until that time, he looked to be in the mix for the run to the checkered flag at the end. To say he was disappointed is a major understatement, although, he didn’t seem as confident going in as one might have expected with his performance in practice and qualifying.

Just A Fan’s View can’t, and won’t, overlook the way Brian Vickers has performed this year in his Red Bull Toyota. Except for several glitches along the way this year, Brian has made a a strong showing every week. I expect he will be in victory lane in the very near future. If it hadn’t been for the yellow flag at the end of the race, it would have been an interesting finish, since both he and Kurt were running the exact same line. (Oh well, that’s life in the “shoulda – woulda – coulda” lane.)

Without spending a lot of time on a specific discussion of who finished in the top ten or so, there are some drivers that we just can’t ignore. If you look at the finishing order, you will once again see Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer,Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. These guys have been showing up every week ready to race. They may not be making the headlines during qualifying, but they are definitely in the discussion at the end of the race.

As ‘Just A Fan’, I am impressed with the way Tony Stewart has performed with his brand new team so far this year and have been surprised at how Clint Bowyer quietly seems to finish near the front consistently with his. These teams are strong and I am surprised at how well they seem to be performing out of the box, (although I probably shouldn’t be.)

Jeff Gordon is at the top of the points chart again and has been consistently knocking on the door at the end of the races. I think he will end his no-points-win streak soon. Who knows, it could be at one of the short tracks in the next two races, (maybe even both.)

The brunt of the “after chatter” this week was mostly about how the unexpected warm weather seemed to affect the handling of the cars severely for the weekend. I, along with others, think that many of the teams expected the race to be similar to Las Vegas since the tire was similar to what they used out there. No one was blaming Goodyear or the tires for the slippin’ and slidin’ but, they didn’t have a lot of good things to say about the track. It’s just worn out.

The second main subject was the empty seats in the stands. I am sure Nascar and AMS are taking a good look at the situation and only they know how that will turn out. Times are tough and I don’t want to speculate.

In listening to the drivers in numerous interviews, it seemed they knew it was going to be an uncomfortable ride all day long and many said they were just going to go out and try to have a little fun. I’m sure they tried, I just don’t know how many actually had that much fun.

Well, as I’m sure everybody already knows, Nascar is taking a week off, but we’ll be here for the weekend blog/podcast. At the present I don’t expect there to be any “After Chatter” planned for the mid week. I do have a special feature I’m planning for this weekend though and I expect it to all work out. No matter what, we’ll have something for you…

See ya next time …

Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar At Atlanta: Will Nascar’s Fastest Track Yield Unexpected Results This Time?

Play

Hi everyone, and welcome to this weeks edition of Just A Fan’s View pre-race look at Atlanta.

Is it possible that the great weather predicted for Atlanta this weekend could foretell of totally unexpected results for the Race on Sunday? I know it is just a coincidence, but, I can’t remember a time I have been in Atlanta and there wasn’t a threat of rain.

Now, to be truthful, I don’t spend a lot of time in Atlanta but it seems that when I have been there on business, or traveled through on my way to somewhere else, it usually rains; (or at least threatens to.) This weekend looks to be a very comfortable and rain-free weekend.

The qualifying for the Kobalt Tools 500 showed, once again, Mark Martin and Kurt Bush have their qualifying game down. I just wonder if they can carry their front row qualifying spots all the way to victory lane. I know both of them know how to win, they just need a few more things to go right on race day. (Neither one of them has had very good ‘racing luck’ over the last few races.)

This week is going to be tough to call just as Las Vegas was last week. You see, as a Nascar devotee and fan I don’t put much stock in they way the drivers qualify. There are times when qualifying does tell a story but, when it comes right down to it, I look at other things.

One thing I watch at Atlanta is who runs consistently in the middle of the track and at the top while maintaining a good consistent lap time. To me, the single lap times, and the first couple of laps on new tires don’t matter much; (unless it is near the end of the race and someone on brand new tires is trying to catch someone on old tires.) I do think the winner this week will prove this out and it will all depend on when and how the yellows come out near the end of the race.

Just A Fan’s View thinks it is better to be watching the times of the drivers during the practices and put less importance on the qualifying times. At Atlanta, the person that consistently finds a line to run faster than the rest is the person that will end up out front, especially as the tires wear out.

That is what I will consider when it comes down to the drivers I pick to finish in the top five, (and unfortunately, I won’t have input from the final practice session before this writing.) I will be paying attention to it though and I know it will make a difference in the finishing order.

I guess rather than drag out this conversation for an extended period time, we should get right to how I think things are going to go this weekend.

If we look at the first practice, we find several that had good practice times and speeds but didn’t qualify all that well. That is just the type thing I am talking about, and looking for, at Atlanta. Let’s just look at few:

  • For the second week in a row Mark Martin finished at the top of the chart in the first practice. He actually followed it up by taking the pole position in qualifying. If he can have a consistent run and avoid the engine failures of the last two weeks, he has a very good chance of finishing out front.
  • Kevin Harvick posted the second fastest practice speed in the first session and has been making strong showings at the first three races this year. He is sure to finish strong if things go as usual for him this weekend.
  • Brian Vickers has been impressive over the first three races this year. He just hasn’t been able to be there  at the end. That could all change this weekend, (and it remains to be seen if the Toyota engine problems show up again this weekend.)
  • I just can’t rule out Kurt Bush this weekend. He has been extremely strong over the first three races and for the second week n a row has qualified on the front row. His practice times weren’t that bad either.
  • This could be the week for Jamie McMurray. Of all the qualifiers, he was the only one that might have beaten Mark Martin out for the pole position. Jamie has also made strong showings every weekend so far this year. He just needs a break or two to go his way and that could be all he needs.

There is one thing I want to point out about qualifying. If you listened closely to the interviews with the drivers after their qualifying runs you heard the top qualifiers say their cars were basically out of control. They may have fast but they were not comfortable. That’s another reason I don’t want to put a lot of stock in the qualifying times for telling who may win the race.  I don’t think a driver wants to drive on the edge for the whole race. They need to have at least a slight comfort level and feel for the car and that could be what makes the biggest difference at the end of the race.

Okay, enough for now. It’s time for the Just A Fan’s View choices for the top five. This is another week that is tough to call but, I’ll give my best shot.

There is no way to rule out at least the possibility of a Roush team finishing up front other Jamie McMurray. If it does happen I think it will be  Greg Biffle although I can never count Carl Edwards out of the mix.

The Hendrick teams could all make a good showing at the end of the race also and that means we have to consider Jimmy Johnson, Dale Jr and Jeff Gordon.

There are a lot of possibilities this weekend, but, here are my picks for the end of the race. I think it is going to be a down to the wire finish.  Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Bush and Greg Biffle are all going to be there mixing it up at the end. As to who is going to win, well, that is a much harder question. Since I have to make a choice right now without the benefit of seeing the second practice session, I going to go way out on a limb and pick Mark Martin to come home with the trophy for the Kobalt Tools 500.

There, I’ve made my choice and all that remains is to see who actually pulls off the victory.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just a Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Update on: Nascar at Las Vegas, the Just A Fan’s View “After Chatter”

Click on the S3 media player below to hear the podcast of the article

Play

Hey everybody and welcome to the JAFV Las Vegas “After Chatter.”

The name of the game for Sunday’s race in Las Vegas appeared to be “overcoming adversity” (if you had the time). My reasoning for this statement is, many faced adversity during the weekend and if they had time to overcome it, they finished well or, at least, better than they would’ve.  If there wasn’t enough time … they didn’t.

Kyle Bush overcame the adversity of a blown engine before qualifying and having to start at the rear of the field to take the win at Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon. In fact, it seemed that most of the teams that finished in the top ten had to overcome some sort of adversity over the weekend  to finish where they did.

I have to admit I certainly was surprised with Kyle taking the race although I knew he would be a strong contender for the win and figured he would definitely finish in the top five. I just never expected he would be able to make it all the way to the front from the back knowing how hard it has been to pass at Vegas in the past. He did a great job and was much more patient than he was in the Nationwide race on Saturday. Although he had some help from other strong contenders on Sunday, he was right there waiting to pounce on the opportunity and took advantage of it for the win.  (Congratulations to Kyle!)

One thing I will say about Kyle Bush in 2009 and it’s very noticeable; he is definitely more patient than in the past (a sign he is maturing quickly as a driver) and that could put him right at the top of the standings at the end of the year, (and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the teams if it does pan out that way.) Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am sure he is going to be in The Chase and one of the ones to beat for the championship.

It seemed to this fan that several of the drivers went into a slight self – destruct mode while making pit stops this weekend. Some were charged with speeding and others just  flat blew their entry into the pits and  their pit stalls when it counted most. (Maybe I should say, when it counted against them the most.)

One thing was certainly noticeable for the entire weekend. During the races of both series, more than one person had trouble with the entry to the pits. It seemed that it was hard to get ‘whoa’d up’ before the beginning of the timing of the pit entry speed. It burned more than a few. (I’ll give a little  more of my opinion about this situation a little later.)

Just for a minute, let’s take a look at some of  the other top finishers.

  • Clint Bowyer used fuel strategy and a slightly better handling car to take the second spot.
  • Jeff Burton finished third and it just goes to show, if you keep on showing up and doing the best you can, good things happen.
  • David Reutimann also had his own set of adversities to overcome, started in the back and finished fourth for the day. It looked pretty bleak when his car developed an oil leak during the race, but they had the time to bounce back from that, too.
  • Bobby Labonte stuck it out and his team performed well as they took the fifth spot. They surprised a lot of people and that’s a good thing heading for Atlanta.
  • Jeff Gordon started twenty-eighth, worked his way to the front and broke the 20,000 laps led barrier. He looked to be a contender for the win but blew his left front tire after blowing the entry to pit road. He finished sixth even with part of his left front fender missing.
  • Greg Biffle had a strong car, but the problems with the Roush engines that affected Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Carl Edwards, caused him to run conservatively possibly costing him a chance to win.
  • Brian Vickers finished eighth and was part of the Toyota engine situation for the weekend.
  • Jamie McMurray ran another strong race but had his own set of  problems as well as running another one of those Roush engines.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr did a great job of overcoming adversity on Sunday. After blowing the entry to pit road and going a lap down he managed to fight back for a tenth place finish which takes a little of the qualifying pressure off him as Nascar heads on to Atlanta.

Other notables that JAFV has been watching with interest are Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart.

  • Marcos just can’t seem to catch a break, but has made strong showings at all of the first three races. I expect to see him in the top five more than once in the weeks and months ahead.
  • Mark Martin has a strong car and team and, if some of the unusual things stop jumping up and biting them, look out … it could mean several wins for him this year and a place in The Chase as well as possibly taking his first Nascar Cup Championship.
  • Tony Stewart and his new team are probably the biggest surprise to Just A Fan’s View this year. I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of his team and like what I see. I don’t think anyone (except Tony and his teams) expected them to perform so well right out of the box. He is only one of the “feel good” stories so far this year. Don’t count him out of contention, his 26th place finish this week was just a little misleading.

Okay, let’s jump back to the trouble with entering into Pit Road for a minute. I don’t have a lot to say about it except, with all of the problems experienced by the racers this last weekend, I am sure Nascar will at least take a look at the situation before the next race at Las Vegas. Personally, I think they will look at slightly extending the area to get slowed down to the pit road speed before they start the timing areas. I think it needs a minor adjustment, but, that’s just me …

See ya next time …

Rusty

©March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Las Vegas: “Just A Fan’s View” Odds Are Vegas Will Be A Down to the Wire Shootout

Click on S3 player below to hear the podcast version of this article.

Play

Hey everybody and welcome to Just A Fan’s View pre-race chatter for this week.

Judging from the qualifying times, Just A Fan’s View thinks this is going to be an awfully hard race to call, at least before its finished. There are a lot reasons why I think that, but the main one is those qualifying times.

There are so many cars qualified within hundredths of each other that it could either prove to be one of the closest non-restrictor plate races of the year or it could just be another runaway. I am really having trouble deciding who’s gonna win this thing because the cars are so closely matched.

It looks like Goodyear has brought a really good tire and it also seems the drivers think so, too. Judging from the way they qualified, nobody had any hesitation of being committed to throwing themselves into the the turns  and “lettin’ ‘er eat”. The thing that seemed to bother them the most was the bumps down in turns 1 and 2. If it weren’t for them, I think we would have seen even closer qualifying times and more people breaking the track record. Those bumps threw a lot of drivers a curve ball when it came to qualifying. It remains to be seen how they’ll handle them for the race.

The Pole was captured by Kyle Bush with his brother, Kurt, grabbing the outside position of the front row. Were it not for the fact Kyle blew an engine in practice before qualifying, it could have been a blowout by him and a race for second for all the rest. Blowing that engine just means more excitement for us fans because he will be starting in the back on Sunday and we all know he won’t be satisfied staying back there. I look for him to move up through the pack regularly when the race begins and highly expect him to be a contender for the win.

Now…that being said, let’s take a look at some the other drivers that aren’t going to just sit by and wait for him to drive to the front. After finishing first for the first two races of the 2009 season it would be awfully hard to think that Matt Kenseth wouldn’t be right up there fighting for the win at race end. Even though the Roush cars were noticeably slower than many in qualifying, a little thing like that has never kept them from being in the mix for taking the checkered flag.  I look for strong competition to come from the likes of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and yes, David Ragan, too.

A quick look at the top 10 starters shows us just how exciting the end of this race could be. Now, I know that putting too much stock in the way they qualify is a little misleading, but just about anybody in the top 38 could pull out the win.

Just look at some of the drivers that are back in the pack but their qualifying times and speeds are not that far off. It is filled with the likes of  Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr, Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip and Carl Edwards to name just a few. If we just look at the top 32, they are only about 31/2 tenths off the pace or less. The others are only about a half second off the pace.  All of this could change in Saturday’s practice,however.

Some of the surprises  to me are David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. Not that I don’t think them very capable but it is a little different to see them in the top five qualifiers. Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Kasey Kane and Ryan Newman all qualified in the top ten and any one of them could be taking the checkered flag at the end of the race.

Probably the most controversial thing to come up after qualifying was the way that Nascar addresses a car being pulled out of  line and being sent to the rear for one reason or another.  The way they do it just moves the cars forward in the line the car is removed from. Many of us familiar with the Saturday night way of doing things are used to seeing the crossover of positions so that the qualifiers are basically still in order according to speed.

Kyle Bush having to pull out of the Pole position and going to the back actually puts the third fastest qualifier, Jimmy Johnson, ahead of the second fastest, Kurt Bush, in doing it the Nascar way which some think unfair.  I personally like the crossover realignment but I do understand the other way, also. Besides, it is Nascar’s decision and they have been doing it that way for a long time. Still, sometimes looking at changing things around is not a bad thing either.

Well…that brings us  to the hard part this week. Who is going to win?

Honestly, this is a hard one for me to call. I’m writing this without any input from the Saturday final practice, but I’ll give my opinion anyway, (as I always do.)

This week, I see a lot of possibilities. Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin and a host of others. Wow, this is tough but I’m going to pick somebody that is probably unexpected by many. I think it is going to come down to a shootout at the end with about five drivers. Kyle Bush, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson, Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon. Out of those five I think it’s going to be a race to wire and Jeff Gordon is going to break his winless streak in points racing this weekend in Las Vegas.

I know the odds are against me…but…isn’t that what Las Vegas is all about anyway???

See ya next time…

Rusty

©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman