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Nascar At Atlanta: Spots 7 to 14 Are Separated by Only 89 Points as The Chase for The Chase Winds Down

Atlanta will prove to be interesting for those trying to stay, or make it into the Chase for 2009. Spots 7 to 14 are only separated by 89 points with two races to go and even Clint Bowyer in spot 15 has a chance to still make it in. Of course, it will almost take two miraculous interventions over the next two races, but it is still possible he could make it … That is, “IF” … and it is anawfully big “IF”.

Of all the teams that had a chance to move into the top 12 in the last few weeks, Clint Bowyer’s team has had the worst luck of the ones that even had a chance. From just not being able to get a good finish, to being accidentally spun out by his team mate, Kevin Harvick, his chances are way down from the rest of the contenders for the top twelve spots. I really feel for him and his team, but as I said, unless some of the the others ahead of him have some really bad problems, he doesn’t have much of chance. I know they will come back strong next season and I am sure they will be in there contending for the top twelve in next years race for the Chase.

When you think about their performance this year, they’ve done a pretty good job for what could really be considered a first year team.

Looking at the starting lineup for today shows an interesting mix at the front of the pack. We see Martin Truex on the pole with Kasey Kahne on the outside. Second row is all Hendrick with Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Third row is the Bush brothers Kyle and Kurt, one of them is definitely trying to get into the top twelve and the other one is in. In the fourth row we see Mark Martin and Bryan Vickers, one trying to stay in the top twelve and the other trying to get in. Just those fours rows make the drama very obvious for the race tonight. With the points the way they are in positions 7 through 14, anything can still happen.

So what else could possibly make this Chase more dramatic than it already is? I’m not sure, but I know that after the race finishes tonight, a lot of things will either be much clearer or a lot closer and more muddy. It all depends on who finishes where… and it depends on whether or not anything strange happens to one the drivers trying to stay in that top twelve area in the Chase points, (like what happened to Carl Edwards this week while playing frisbee.)

I can’t remember when the race to The Chase has been more interesting than it has been this year. We have had several teams kinda “in there” all along and others that have been in and out and in again for most of the last half of the season. I can tell you, if the season continues on the way it has over the last several weeks, I have no idea who is going to be in the last 6 spots of the Chase standings.

One good thing about all these goings on has been the interest it has managed to generate in the drama of the Chase. With so many on the edge of making it, or not making it, people are as interested in it as the playoffs for the World Series. I have heard more people talking about the possibilities more this year than any I have since the Chase began. As a long time Nascar fan, I am happy to see the interest, but it hasn’t taken all of the uncertainty to keep me interested. I just love the fact that the drama continues right up to these last two races.

As for who is going to win this weekend, I really think it will be an unexpected victory. It could be someone like Martin Truex, Jr, Bryan Vicke rs, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Bush. Some will likely insert the names of Kyle Bush (who really needs a win to get in the top twelve), or Matt Kenseth. I just think it is going to be a hard one to call because of the closeness of the gap between those so close to being in or being out of the Chase.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Jeff Gordon pull off the victory because I know that he and his crew chief would like to go into the coming weeks with a little momentum. It is awfully hard to rule out any of the Hendrick teams along with the 24 although I do think Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson have a better chance than Dale Jr. Also, I can’t rule out the Stewart/Haas teams. Both can run very strong at Atlanta and that should make for an interesting mix come tonight.

I think I’ll just leave it where it is and root for the guy I would like to see win. I won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t, but, I would like to see him take not only this race in Atlanta, but the Cup Championship, as well. Who is that … well, if you don’t know by now, I don’t see any reason to let you in on all my secrets just yet so we’ll just leave it at this…  He’s been around a while … Does that help??

See ya next time …
Rusty

© September 6, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View & Rusty Norman


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Quick Opinion of the Nascar Nationwide Race from Just A Fan’s View

Just a quick thought about the Nationwide race in Canada today. It was so disappointing to see Marcos Ambrose make about only one mistake today. Unfortunately, it was in the last turn on the last lap and it cost him the race. It was definitely disappointing for him (and I hated to see it too. I really thought he deserved to win. Just goes to show, it ain’t over till it’s over.)

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Nascar at Bristol: Thunder Valley After Chatter from Just A Fan’s View



Kyle Bush held off a hard charging Mark Martin and brought home the victory for the #18 M&M’s/Joe Gibbs Toyota in the closing laps of the Sharpie 500 in Thunder Valley. Mark Martin led the most laps and had the dominate car most of the afternoon but could only manage second place. Along with all that drama, the end of the race saw Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon mathematically locked into the Chase while the standings were shaken up once again closer to the break point of, 12th place.

I guess it came as no surprise to many that Kyle Bush came away with the victory, but I have to admit it was just a little unexpected from this fan’s view. Sure, we all know Kyle runs very strong at Bristol but lately he and his #18 team have been struggling.

Personally, I didn’t think his luck was going to take a turn for the good just yet. From the way he had been running in Cup recently, it looked as though he could be in jeopardy of making the Chase and it didn’t appear to me that he was going to make it. Now, with two races left to decide the top twelve, it could very well be that he not only makes it in, but could have a great chance of being one of the top contenders if he does. If he has a good week in Atlanta and then in Richmond, watch out for what that kind of momentum could mean for his chances in taking the championship.

There wasn’t a lot of controversy coming out of Bristol. In fact, the Sharpie 500 was a typical Bristol race, with plenty of short track excitement and continuous action.

With the race at Bristol being followed by a weekend off, it appears that the time will be enjoyed by the competitors in the way they usually choose to enjoy a weekend off. For some, it will be another weekend of racing while for others it will be taking a breather in preparation for the next twelve weeks.

The focus of most of the ones in the 7th to 15th position in the standings is the race in Atlanta next week where they hope to solidify their place in the top twelve or break into the top twelve with a good finish. Time is running out for those outside the top twelve to make a spot for themselves in the Chase. Atlanta will very likely decide all but one or two of those that will actually make it.

For now, everyone draws a breath and prepares for Atlanta. Atlanta will be a turning point for some and for others, the end of the dream for this year’s Chase. All eyes will be on the ones that absolutely have to have a good finish to either remain in the Chase or move into it.

See ya next time … Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© August 29, 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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Nascar at Bristol: Sprint Cup Returns To Short Track Racing in Thunder Valley

How about that “Old Guy”, Mark Martin? Another pole starting position and that makes five on the year, so far, for the guy that wasn’t even supposed to be racing this year and who will be making his 1000th start in the Nascar Cup Series Saturday night in Thunder Valley.

I always find it interesting how Mark Martin talks about his qualifying experiences week in and week out. He doesn’t step out and say things like, “I think I left a little out there, I hope it holds up…” or, “Well, it was a good run but I think I could have gone a little faster…” No, he says things like, “I’ve never been so scared in my life, I can’t believe how fast that lap was…”, or “It is unbelievable how loose the car was; there’s no way that lap could have been that good… I can’t believe I’m on the pole.”

Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. He never criticizes his crew chief, car owner or the team. He is always saying how hard they work and how good a car they’ve provided for him. It’s just that, (and I think this is the key), he is outside his comfort zone. To get the results he is getting, he is pressing the envelope of comfort he would like to be in — keeping it right on the edge — and getting those poles and victories shows that’s what it takes. (Not bad for an “Old Guy”. Hey, I can say that ’cause I am one.)

He may be enjoying what is going on for him this year, but he isn’t as “comfortable” as he would like to be. He also says the pressure of making the Chase is taking a little bit of the fun out of all the good stuff going on for him this year. Although he has had some bad luck during the year, he is performing well but, he also doesn’t want to waste all of these “good results” when he is so close to making the Chase. It is this fan’s opinion, once he definitely makes it into the Chase this year, his racing life in Nascar will once again be fun for Mark Martin.

Once again, I don’t think where someone qualified is going to tell too much about where they will finish. During qualifying, it definitely looked as though many were taken a bit by surprise by how slick the track was. It looked like many missed the setup on their qualifying runs. That makes it look even more like it will be a very exciting race because, the outside lane is going to prove very “racey”, also.

One thing that can be said about Bristol; you don’t pass that many people in the pits. This is one track that is a driver’s track. When you win at Bristol, it is usually because the driver did his job. That doesn’t mean the crews and what they do doesn’t matter. It simply means that if the crews give the driver a good car setup, the driver is more responsible for the end result. The crew still has to do their part, but, more passing is going to be done on the track “rather” than in the pits.

I disagree with the overall consensus that Kyle Bush is the strong favorite to win the Sharpie 500 this weekend. It is this fan’s opinion there is just too much that has been going wrong for him this year. He may have won the Truck race but look what happened to him in the Nationwide race. To win these days a lot has to go right. He has the same chance as anyone else to take the victory, but he also has the same chance as anyone else to have something go wrong not of their own making. At Bristol, anything –and I stress the word, a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g — can happen to change the outcome of the race.

Bristol is a track that demands a lot from the competitors and in particular the demand on their ability to endure mentally and physically throughout the race. This is a place that breeds short tempers and high emotions. That sometimes causes the drivers to react in ways that changes the whole outcome of the night for them and for those that happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.

The winner tonight could be a total surprise. It could be someone like Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann or even Scott Speed. Actually, out of those three, I would probably pick Marcos Ambrose but he is a dark horse to me for tonight’s race.

Just looking at the last practice shows me some pretty strong possibilities for winners but it also gives a false impression. As always, the fastest single laps don’t mean that much in a race like this; it is the ones that can run the most consistent lap times on a regular basis and handle different lines on the track when they have to pass. In my opinion, that is the thing that will be the deciding factor in tonight’s race. Yes, track position is going to be important, but so is being able to pass when the need arises. That’s what makes tonight’s race hard to call.

I look at the Hendrick teams as possible winners tonight because they have been running strong all year just about everywhere. When I say Hendrick teams I also include the Stewart/Haas camp also. Now, the Roush cars are even looking good for tonight. Either Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards in particular could pull it off tonight. It just depends on what happens and when.

In fact, there are any number of individuals that could end up in Victory Lane tonight but unfortunately only one will. Do I think it will be one of the Bush brothers? No, not really. I think it’s going to be someone from the Hendrick camps. Only problem is, I’m not sure whether it will be Mark Martin or Jimmy Johnson. Even though I know Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart have an excellent chance for winning tonight, I’m going to go with a one two finish of Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson…

Now, it’s up to you to figure out which one will be first and which one will be second. My choice is J J but, it could be M M … what do you think…

See ya next time …
Rusty
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 22, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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Nascar at Michigan: The Carfax 400 “After Chatter”

The Carfax 400 came down to a fuel mileage race once again and didn’t disappoint, especially if you like drama and are a Red Bull Team, Bryan Vickers fan.

It really looked like Jimmy Johnson was going to take the win until he ran out of gas with a little over two laps to go. Up to that point he had led the most laps of the race, adding up to 133. The only thing left to see after that was whether or not Bryan Vickers would run out of gas, (as Greg Biffle did back in June), and turn the lead over to Jeff Gordon or Dale Jr.

As we all now know, Bryan Vickers managed to conserve enough fuel to finish the race, run the cool down lap and do a partial burnout after winning the Carfax 400 at MIS. However, he did need to be pushed into victory lane. That just tells you how close the mileage was figured by those that decided to try and get fifty one laps on a tank of fuel. For some it worked and for others, like Mark Martin, it did not.

In fact, Jimmy Johnson was running first when he ran out of fuel and finished 33rd. Mark Martin was running just outside the top ten and finished 31st. After the race, the biggest question as the teams left Michigan was, why did Mark’s crew chief take the chance? Even He was wondering if it was worth the risk after it was all over.

All in all, this was a good race and went pretty much as I expected. As far as I could tell from much of the pre-race chatter, everyone expected it would probably come down to a fuel mileage race and it did although many question why it had to. Personally, I just didn’t think they would be stretching out the fuel so many laps. Many wonder why so many teams decided to take the track position over fuel, especially knowing that the race in June pretty much pushed things to the limit.

If we take a close look at a couple of drivers, we see that both Jeff Gordon and Bryan Vickers managed to push the fuel envelope to the 50 plus lap limit and it worked out well for them.

One just has to wonder what the limit will be next time Nascar shows up at MIS. Unless someone is way out front in the waning laps next time, I just don’t see how they can save much more fuel than they have the last two times out. After all, no one expected they could go more laps than they did in June and now it appears the August race has set the new watermark for laps run on a tank of fuel.

From this fans view, I don’t think anyone is going to try to go further than they did last Sunday at MIS. It is possible they could, you understand, but it just doesn’t seem the risk outweighs the advantage after a certain point. I mean, even the guys that tried it and failed this time are thinking that maybe they should have done it differently. It is my opinion they won’t want to chance loosing the points for such a long shot in the future. But, as we all well know…this is Nascar Sprint Cup racing and no one has ever said that taking chances wasn’t a part of the deal …

See ya next time …
Rusty
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 19, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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Nascar Returns to Michigan: Just A Fan’s View of the Carfax 400 at MIS

Nascar returns to Michigan this weekend and it looks like it could be another fuel mileage race, naturally, depending on when the cautions near the end of the race fall. Some of the fastest cars are Bryan Vickers, Mark Martin, Jimmy Johnson and Juan Montoya. It remains to be seen whether they actually are the faster cars come tomorrow. Racing at Michigan is always full of surprises; that’s just the way it is.

I watched the first practice sessions and the the qualifying and didn’t see too much that surprised me, but the last two sessions began to make me wonder just who was getting a handle on what the track would most likely be like at race time tomorrow.

Now I have to be honest, even though I like the Michigan races, to me they do tend to be a bit unexciting, at least until nearer the end. It is a wide track and has multiple grooves. The drivers can pass on the high side and and low side, why they can even pass in the middle. It’s not the fault of the drivers that the race becomes a little tedious in the middle. It is just a characteristic of the track.

Michigan International Speedway was made to race at least three wide on and to be extremely fast while doing so.  All of the competitors can run in any of the three grooves and they can all run fast.

I think the key to this race is who can get the most out of a gallon of gas and still keep near the front. If all goes as it usually does, someone will be leading near the end trying to stretch the last bit of  gas in the fuel line. Let’s just not forget how things went in June; first Jimmy Johnson ran out of gas on the front straight and then Greg Biffle ran out on the back stretch, leaving Mark Martin to drive across the line and claim the victory.

So, do I think this one is going to come down to a fuel mileage race or a race that could end up like the Nationwide race on Saturday afternoon. Gee, I’m glad you asked that question and, to be honest, it could go either way and it could be very exciting, considering the continuance of the double file restart and the possibility of it coming down to fuel and tires, (mostly fuel.) I do think track position will be important and the one that can handle the top groove on a restart just could hold the key to victory. No matter what happens, the one that can hold their line on the restart will be the one that pulls out ahead. Then the question becomes whether they have enough horses to hold off the rest of the pack around them.

It is hard not to notice that the four Hendrick team cars were in the top ten fastest cars in the final practice. Yeah, I know that doesn’t tell us much because it is only a one lap reading on their speeds and we all know it is who can run consistently fastest the latest in a run. Since two of the Hendrick cars were running up front on the last laps of the race in June, it is awfully hard for me not to think one of the four could come away with the win. Even Dale Jr was eighth fastest in that last practice.

This fan thinks the Carfax 400 is going come down to the last laps just like it did in June. I don’t know for sure but I do think all of the Hendrick cars are going to be in the top15 and that includes Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. I also think this is a race that will show a few surprises at the end with all of the manufacturers performing well.

I won’t rule out the possibility of the Fords of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards being in victory lane, simply because of Greg’s performance in June. I also think Kurt Bush is going to run strong.

Since I like to actually choose a winner, I’m having a hard time choosing, but I do like the chances of Bryan Vickers, Juan Montoya, and even Clint Bowyer and Kyle Bush. But, when it comes right down to it, I’m going to go with Jimmy Johnson. The way he ran last time may not carry over to this race, but I do think him and Chad are coming back with a little something to prove…

See ya next time …

Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 15, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman



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Nascar at the Glen: Stewart Wins … Again

Tony Stewart continues to amaze many and beat the odds in his first year as an owner/driver. He continues to praise all of those involved in his success this year except himself … He’s just enjoying the unexpectedly successful and fantastic ride this year. (And who can blame him??)

Now, this is just a fan’s view (and I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking), I haven’t seen Tony Stewart as calm and, Yes, happy as he has been this year. Of course, I know that things are going pretty good for him so far and if things begin to go downhill he may react differently, but he is quite a different person than he was, say, three years ago.

I will even go one step further in my personal assessment of Tony Stewart; I noticed a change in him when he took ownership of Eldora Speedway. He found something that put him in a whole different demeanor. I am happy for him and it has been an interesting and pleasant transition. He seems to enjoy being in an ownership position and it seems he has become more appreciative of those he has surrounded himself with to accomplish the success his team is enjoying at this present time.

While we’re talking about surprises, how about Marcos Ambrose. I find him very talented and refreshing. I don’t think I’ve seen or heard anyone in Nascar express with the same enthusiasm their thankfulness for actually being able to be in Nascar. Yes, I know many do mention it in passing statements and then they move on to other things, but Marcos actually left his homeland of Australia to come to America and race in Nascar.

Is he performing? Well, you be the judge. We know how well he drives a road course, that’s his forte. Considering some of the others that have tried to make the move to Nascar from other places, Marcos has adapted well and, this is just my opinion as a fan, he just needs more seat time in the car and he will be someone everyone will consider a contender to win every week. I can’t say I’m surprised; he has been impressing me since last year.

Just a quick word or two about the accident involving Sam Hornish Jr, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. I think it is to Nascar’s credit that none of the three was seriously injured. It is because they have paid attention to keeping the driver as safe as possible even when the unexpected happens. In days past, it is possible that one or more of them may have had to be hospitalized. My hat is off to all who have taken it upon themselves to make the dangerous sport of motoracing safer with all of the safety equipment developed, and being improved and developed, over the last several years. We’ve all seen, (several times), what hitting the tires can do to throw the cars back out onto the racing surface at places like the Glen and I agree with those that are calling for something to be done.

After all is said and done, I don’t expect Nascar not to take action on this situation and next year we will see something new to take care of this particular situation. I do think the tires will be replaced by something less bouncy and more able to absorb and dissipate the energy of the impact of a car. This is a situation that Nascar generally handles quite well, especially considering the possibilities of severe injury to one or more drivers. I have no doubt, they won’t wait for something worse to happen…they will handle it soon.

See ya next time …
Rusty
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 13, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman


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Nascar at the Glen: Just A Fan’s View of the Race This Weekend at Watkins Glen

Who knows what this weekend holds … if anyone ever thought for a moment that nothing unexpected ever happens in Nascar these days, maybe they should think again. Except for Jimmy Johnson and Kurt Bush starting on the front row, many of the faces fans would expect to see starting near the front just aren’t there.

Names like, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are in the middle to the back of the pack. One can only think they hope to get their cars handling much better by the end of Happy Hour considering the way they qualified. If not, it could prove to be a very long day for them and their teams.

Some fans wonder why Nascar keeps the two road course races in the schedule mix when there are so many other oval tracks looking for a possible Nascar date.  Others wonder why they don’t have more of them in the schedule. I’m one of the ones that likes both the oval tracks and the road courses they visit and I do agree with those that think at least one road course should be in the schedule during the actual Chase races.

Not many disagree with the thinking that Nascar drivers are the best and most versatile drivers in the world, because they drive on more types of race tracks than those in other series. Not only do they drive on more different types but most of them are competitive on all of them, at least when they have a chance to compete. Yes, some of the owners still bring in “road course ringers” to better their chances of having a good finish for their sponsors, but, many of the main drivers perform as well as any of the “ringers” that are brought in.

So, what do I mean by saying that?

Well, I think it is good to see some of the drivers that are more experienced in road courses being brought in, if, for no other reason, it adds a little diversity to the competition. Names like Ron Fellows and Boris Said are recognized by many Nascar fans even though they are probably better known as road course racers.

Boris Said is probably the better known of the two and, personally, I would like to see him get a regular ride for at least a year. I think he is very talented and could be very successful, given the chance to be in good, competitive equipment and also not having so much pressure to perform right off the bat. If he had a chance to gain more experience in the Cup cars without the pressure of having to perform to keep his sponsorship for more than a few races, I think he could produce some surprising results for the owner that gives him the chance.

Well, I suppose I could go on all day talking about many things that don’t really matter about the race on Sunday at the Glen, but I’m going to move on to which ones of the forty three in the field this fan thinks are going to finish in the top spots. I know I have been at a loss some weeks in the past this season for having a good feel for who will actually win and this weekend is no different.  In my opinion, a road course is a place where anybody can win, but it’s more likely that several have a better chance than the others.

Now I won’t bore you with a bunch of talk about the whys and who’s and how’s, but I do have some very strong thoughts on the one that will actually win. If the last road course race tells anything at all about this one, I do think we will see some pretty strong  contenders from Sonoma in the hunt for tomorrow’s race. Some names that immediately stand out are, Juan Montoya, Denny Hamlin, Boris Said, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne. A few others deserving mention would be Greg Biffle, Ron Fellows, Robby Gordon and Max Papis. I’m also of the opinion you can never count Jeff Gordon out of the mix by where he starts simply because he is such a strong road racer. If crew chief, Steve Letarte, gets the 24 car feeling right for Jeff, look out — it could be a repeat of what Marcos Ambrose did at Sonoma in June.

Although any of these could pull off the victory tomorrow, I don’t think many of them have much of a chance. A road course is all about speed and consistency and the one that generally wins has both all day long. I suspect the winner will more likely be either Marcos Ambrose or Jimmy Johnson. Since I like to pick the possible top five or six, here’s what I think the finishing order will be …

I would put the top six as, Jeff Gordon, Boris Said, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Jimmy Johnson, with Marcos Ambrose bringing home the victory.

I think it is going to be interesting to see how long this race goes without a caution flag. If one comes out near the end, I look for real fireworks because of the double-file restart. With no yellow flag in the last fifteen or twenty laps, this fan expects it could be a relatively uneventful finish, depending on tire wear and fuel mileage. As it stands through all of the practices and qualifying, this race at the Glen could be one of the most surprising and interesting races of the year. Now, that’s not because of who might win … it is more who is going to solidify their place in the top twelve for the Chase and who is going kill their chances of getting in at all …

See ya next time …

Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 8, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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Nascar at Pocono: the Pennsylvania 500 “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View

“Man, this was the best race at Pocono in recent history,” or, at least, that’s what many were saying. I really can’t say I disagree with that take of the Pennsylvania 500. I think it was exactly what we have come to expect in a Nascar race these days, except for the fact that it was run on a Monday.

It was a very good race and, from this fan’s view, it looked as though the drivers forgot this was a 500 mile race and they drove almost every lap as if it was with ten to go. It did seem the intensity of the competition was extremely high and perhaps patience wasn’t quite as evident as usual. (That’s a nice way of saying there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on.)

Now, this is just my opinion, but I think two things added to the intensity for this race. First would be the fact that it is crunch time for those that are trying to make the chase and, second, would be the double file restart. Both of these are adding to the intensity of the racing, especially for those trying to break into the Top 12.

As a Nascar fan, I am relatively tired of one thing that is going on these days and it has nothing to do with the COT, the drivers, their teams or the sanctioning body called, Nascar. It has to do with the commentators’ favorite phrase, “Double-file restart, SHOOTOUT STYLE!” I can’t think of anything they say on a regular basis that is more tiring. If they really want to know the truth, I know I am not alone when it comes to feeling this way. Yes, the double-file restart has added an exciting dimension to the races, but, (and I only speak for myself on this part), every time they speak that phrase, it puts a knot in my stomach, (in other words, it makes me sick.) I do hope by next season, they lose that phrase and find a new one.

Why would I even be talking about this here? I don’t know, I think it is just because it is so sickening. If you ask most observers and followers of Nascar, you will find most are wondering why they waited so long to institute the double-file restart. The other way had outlived its importance and reason for being quite a while ago and, with the closeness of competition these days and the importance of being in “clean air”, the move to using the double-file restart was long overdue. I join with all the other voices in praise of the move and I am glad they did it.

Okay, let’s get back to Sunday’s race at Pocono. There was one thing that keeps on coming up in conversations and that, unfortunately, is where some think Nascar blew it again. The comparison is the incidents between Robby Gordon and David Stremme and Denny Hamlin taking out two of Michael Waltrip Racing’s cars, the cars of David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. Admittedly, if Nascar would have handled the Denny Hamlin incident the same as the Gordon/Stremme situation, Denny Hamlin would not have won the race.

I do understand the difference between the two – kinda – but I do see what the rub is. Some would use the argument of inconsistency. Nascar would call the one (the Hamlin incident) a racing incident while the other (the Gordon/Stremme incident) was an ongoing feud over several laps. Even though it is logical, I do see how it can be slightly misconstrued by the casual observer. The only answer is that it is a judgment call and yes, in Nascar’s judgment, the one was a problem and the other was a “racing incident”.

Well, enough on that subject for now. I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about on that subject in the near future. As for my opinion on the race at Pocono, I thought it was a very interesting race. I could say I expected Denny Hamlin to win, but even though I did mention him as a possible winner in the pre-race article, I didn’t really expect him to win. I knew his luck was going to have change because, like Mark Martin in the early part of the season, it couldn’t get much worse. Denny definitely had a strong car and even though he did take out a couple of cars during the race because of a mistake in judgment, he deserved to win because he did have the fastest car.

Some would argue that Jimmy Johnson was the strongest car but he did struggle with mechanical problems. It is possible, if things would have worked out, he and Denny would have had to race against each other at the end of the race. As it was he and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, did a marvelous job of getting everything they could out of the race, even with all of their problems.

There are those that think that another rule change is needed. Now they think there should be a limit to the number of “Lucky Dog” advances for an individual during a race. I say leave it alone… This was one race and it was a big track. For the 48 team to have done the same thing they did here at a place like Martinsville would have been almost impossible. Everything just worked out for them at Pocono. Personally, I think this is why the 48 team has won three championships in a row. They handle adversity as well as they handle advantage and they very well could make it four in a row at Homestead in November.

See ya next time …

Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 5, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View & Rusty Norman


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Nascar Nascar Articles Nascar Racing opinion Uncategorized

Nascar at Pocono: A Fan’s View of Sunday’s Sunoco – Red Cross – Pennsylvania 500

Sunday’s race at Pocono could hold a few surprises. Tony Stewart will have to start in the back, just like last time, and will have his work cut out for himself if he wants to take home the trophy from the Pennsylvania 500 this weekend.

I don’t want to jump the gun on myself, but barring the unforeseen, Jimmy Johnson is going to be tough to beat this weekend. He has been fast since they unloaded off the truck and appeared to be ready to ride the momentum of last week’s victory at the Brickyard. With Stewart starting in the rear, that will be one less Johnson will have to pass and stay ahead of if all goes as I expect it will.

But wait a minute!!! This is Nascar! If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of being a Nascar fan, the race isn’t over until they throw the checkered flag or call the race because of rain.

I think there are several that could take the victory away from Jimmy Johnson and several of them are his own Hendrick teammates. When it comes right down to it, others are looking pretty stout this weekend and some are looking strong enough to win if things go well for them. I don’t think there’s anyone we can count out completely so let’s take a look at a few of the ones I think have a chance.

Well, as I said,  it’s just this fan’s view but this could be the week that the Fords break out of their slump. Or maybe it could be someone out of the Richard Childress garage like either Clint Bowyer or Kevin Harvick. Both of them ran good last week at Indy, especially Kevin Harvick finishing 6th. It could be the “times they are a changin'” for them.

Of course, being totally honest, we can’t rule out the Bush brothers representing the Penske Dodge and Gibbs Camry camps. How about Denny Hamlin, (also from Gibbs) getting back to the way he performed when he swept both races the first year he ran there. It would be awfully hard to rule him out because his luck absolutely has to change, at least from the kind he has had lately.

Since the field is lining up according to points, it adds a little more drama to the mix even though Tony Stewart does have to start in the back because of that tangle with the wall in the first lap of the first practice on Saturday. We have Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon starting on the front row and Kurt Bush and Carl Edwards Starting right behind them. Any way you look at it, that is four strong teams starting in front of all the rest. In fact, the top twelve is the twelve strongest cars in the Chase, at least for the moment and the rest are lining up in order of their points. If you don’t think any one of them could possibly win, I just don’t think you understand the situation.

I am here to tell you, it is going to be a shoot out and it is going to be decided by two things; track position and flawless pit strategy. I don’t want to make too big a deal of the possibilities but it just may not come down to the last lap. It could very well be decided by the one that is first out of the pits on the last pit stop and is the first one to get out in to the clean air.

In reality, this is a race that is going to be a bit of a drawn out affair because Pocono usually comes down to being a race like that. It is definitely one of the ones that can be sort of a sleeper in the middle. Now that I’ve said that, don’t fall asleep on the couch during the middle. If you do, I can guarantee you will miss something important.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I am pretty sure Jimmy Johnson is going to win this one. To add to the Hendrick domination, I think there will be four or five of the Hendrick cars in the top ten. I’m really going to stick my neck out and say Dale Jr is going to finish in the top six this weekend, (which will make the Jr nation extremely happy.)

But when it is all said and done, I know there will be some fans that will come away from this weekend satisfied that Nascar has done everything they possibly could to screw up the race again.

Me, well I’m just gonna watch and listen to the race and enjoy it, even if the guy I want to win doesn’t…

See ya next time …
Rusty
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman


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Nascar Nascar Articles Nascar Racing opinion Uncategorized

Nascar at Indy: “After Chatter” from the Brickyard

I knew it wouldn’t take long for the “Black Helicopters” to fly or the ‘whiners’ to start with their, “Nascar controls who wins,” chatter after the Allstate 400 Sunday and I wasn’t wrong. It actually started before and immediately after the race and still goes on today. I think I’ve heard every excuse from, “they just wanted Jimmy Johnson to win,” to “There is no way they wanted a foreigner to win.” It is unbelievable what some fans think and amazing what some of the media types say and do to reinforce this type thinking on a regular basis.

In all of my forty some years as a Nascar fan, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such weak and ridiculous comments in my whole life. I really just can’t understand some fans’ opinions of Nascar and I can tell that some of the ones that make the most ridiculous remarks seem to know the least about racing and Nascar itself.

I hate to be blunt, but many of them appear to have done nothing in racing except watch it from the stands (or the Tv) and understand very little about the way the sport works. It is like they are sitting and watching a football game and think every call the referees make is wrong no matter what. If even one quarter of the things some say were true about Nascar, there would be no Nascar because the competitors wouldn’t want to compete in such a crooked and fixed environment. (Let’s be real honest about the racing this year, it has really never been more competitive in recent memory.)

I mean, come on … this year the Hendrick teams seem to have a definite advantage over the rest at the moment, but last year it was Roush and Gibbs, (at least in appearance), and who knows what’s going to happen during the last ten Chase races for the championship.

So why is such a big deal being made about someone getting penalized for speeding when it is done by speed testing equipment? Is it because some think that the equipment can be right for everyone else and still be wrong for the person caught by it or the one they thought should win?

All one really has to do is check the previous races and find all of the cars that were penalized for speeding in the pits. It’s not like it’s never happened before and it will happen again. I think the reason people may have thought it appeared the way it did was because Montoya had such a dominate car on Sunday. Still, (once again using that common sense thing), he was caught speeding and Nascar had no choice but to penalize him as they would anyone else on the track. It was only fair and it happened the way it should have happened. If he wouldn’t have been speeding, he very likely would have won the race going away.

While I’m spending a little time ranting, let me just mention my thoughts on the way several in the media look at Nascar. Sometimes I wonder just who they think they are and what they think they can do better than Nascar. It is very frustrating to listen to some of them give us their assessment of the year and all of the things they think is wrong with Nascar and why Tv ratings are down and why the stands aren’ full every week, etc, etc.

If what they have to say was worth much, maybe I would say they should keep it up, but all I see them doing is looking for a headline to get people to read their articles and hardly anything more. I have my own opinion of what is going on this year with the Tv ratings and the lack of people in the stands.

Since this is a rant, I guess I will have to share some of my thoughts. You see, I think the biggest reason for the attendance being down has to do with the economy. (Well, DUH!, I wonder how I came up with that idea?) If the economy is down over one third, wouldn’t someone expect the attendance to be down at least that much? In case no one noticed, people are struggling for every dollar they make right now. I know I am and I know many of my friends locally and across the nation are having a rough go of it, too. We just don’t have the extra money to spend. (I assume many are in the same boat.)

When it comes down to the Tv ratings, I think there are several reasons and none of them have to do with the COT or the lack of drama in the races. I don’t buy the opinion that Nascar must be dong something wrong. Like anything else, the popularity fluctuates with the attention span of the audience and not everyone loves to sit in front of the Tv and watch a 400-500 mile race every weekend.  It’s not that they don’t follow the races, it’s just that they have other things to do, too.

Personally, as a fan, I don’t watch every lap of every race every week. (I may listen to part of it on my Sirius/XM radio while doing other things and if something happens that would be interesting to see, I may check my DVR of it later.) In fact, I don’t remember ever watching every lap of every race on Tv. Even when I was racing my own car at the local speedway, I didn’t watch all of the races of every class every Saturday night. I talked with people and friends and kinda paid attention to what was going on. If something happened I felt was important to me I paid closer attention at that point.

One other opinion about Tv ratings. When Nascar started moving things around to several different outlets for coverage during the year is when I began to lose a little bit of interest in watching. When Nascar was on the local broadcast networks, I think I liked it better and it was easier to find. I guess I’m just not the normal adult American male in that I wouldn’t even watch ESPN if it weren’t for Nascar being on it. (Heck, I don’t even watch that much football since Dan Mariano retired.) When it comes to TNT, well it kinda goes the same way except I do watch it more than I do ESPN by long shot.

You see, I do like some of the different coverages but mostly what I want to see is the race and then listen to the talk of the drivers after it’s over. That’s when the adrenaline is still flowing, the drivers are tired and they tell you more what they actually think about the race and those in it. The one to two hour coverages before the race isn’t what piques my interest. I would much rather see the after race stuff. (Hmmm, maybe that would make a difference in the  ratings; what do you think?)

Okay, well enough of this looking at the “darker side” of Nascar. The facts are, Jimmy Johnson beat Mark Martin in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard and showed he is still a force to be reckoned with for the Chase and the Championship. Dale Jr ran good until his motor blew and Kyle Bush just isn’t finishing the way he did in Cup last year. The top ten finishers turned out to be pretty much the way I called it before the race and, just in case nobody noticed, Tony Stewart is still leading the points, the Fords are still not winning, Hendrick teams and equipment are still finishing strong and the Dodges are inconsistent with the way they’re running. Does any of this really matter that much? Probably not and, barring the unforeseen, Nascar will be at Pocono again this weekend…

See ya next time…

Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© July 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Categories
Nascar Nascar Articles Nascar Racing opinion

Nascar at Indy: the Allstate 400 at the infamous Brickyard, (from Just A Fan’s View)

Very few tracks in motor racing hold such a special place and feeling in the hearts and minds of the competitors and the fans; the Brickyard at Indy is one of those places. It is, by no means, all by itself in that category but it is a place that has a mystique about it like no other. Perhaps it is all of the history that has taken place there or maybe it is just some of the names that come to mind when people think about it, but the Brickyard is one place that Nascar drivers still face with a bit of awe.

Now, I wouldn’t say they are “overwhelmed” with awe by the place but winning at the Brickyard is one of the most treasured victories in Nascar. To the Cup drivers, it ranks very close to winning at Daytona and is a victory that stays with them all their lives.

Even with all of the history surrounding the Brickyard, not all of the memories from there are necessarily good ones. The hottest topic in many circles is the tire problems from last year and some have suggested the problem isn’t fixed yet. If that is the case, it isn’t because Goodyear didn’t put forth the effort. They have done numerous test sessions and the word from all of those efforts is they are ready to race. Personally, I believe they have the situation in control and only ‘race day’ will tell the tale. In other words, we’ll see…

In watching the practice sessions, it is interesting the names I’ve seen at the top of the leader board so far at Indy. Looking at the first two practices, it is interesting that Juan Montoya was second in both, qualified second and will start outside pole on Sunday. That is very interesting even though I don’t put a lot of stock in the practices or in the qualifying times. Montoya has been showing himself to be very consistent and he’s even been showing some strength lately. He’s already proven himself to be a winner at the Brickyard in “Indy cars” and is absolutely capable winning there.

Once again, Mark Martin has shown up at the top of the leader board in practice and made a good strong showing in qualifying by taking the pole. It should be interesting to see how he performs on Sunday afternoon. Just because he has shown some speed doesn’t mean he is going to take the victory but I think he and his crew chief have made it quite clear they want to finish strong over the next few weeks. From this fan’s view, I think they find it more important to solidify their chances in making the Chase rather than taking another victory. That doesn’t mean they will be terribly disappointed if they do take the victory at Indy and also improve their standings in the Chase.

A quick glance at the final qualifying has a few surprises in the lineup. There are some that did qualify well, but the question remains, will they follow it up with a great performance in the race. Names like Juan Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr, David Reutimann, Kasey Kahne and Reed Sorenson. Some of these guys have been known to qualify well this year but not turn a good finish. It remains to be seen how they hold up as the laps wind down nearer the end of the race.

Also this weekend at Indy there are several strong names that did not qualify near the front, but that doesn’t mean they should be counted out for finishing strong at the end of the race. Names like, Jeff Gordon, starting 22nd, Matt Kenseth starting 25th, Kurt Bush starting 40th and Carl Edwards starting 41st. Those are some pretty strong performers and, if you consider only their qualifying times, the chances of them finishing at, or near, the front looks fairly bleak.

To me, it would be a mistake to count them out but they do have a bit of a struggle ahead of them and they will have to not only be fast but there won’t be much room for error either on the track or in the pits if they’re going to win.

The race this weekend could be a race that has a completely unexpected winner or it could be one that sees the usual car numbers and drivers out front and finishing in the top five. When I say “the usual car numbers out front”, naturally I am talking names like, Kurt Bush, Kyle Bush, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne. A few of the unexpected winners would be names like, David Reutimann, Juan Montoya, Greg Biffle, Sam Hornish Jr, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and, yes, even Dale Earnhardt Jr.

From this fan’s view, whoever takes the trophy home for the Allstate 400 will have to work for it. It is going to take excellent pit strategy, flawless pit stops and minimum driver error throughout the day.

So … who do I think is going to win the Allstate 400? That, my friend is a great question and I do have the answer. It will be the one that crosses the finish line first to take the checkered flag…

See ya next time …
Rusty
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© July 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman