NASCAR at Kentucky from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanThis is the first visit for the NASCAR Cup teams to visit the Kentucky track, but really, it’s not. Many of the drivers and teams have gone there to test and they could do that up to about two years ago because it wasn’t a track that had Cup racing on it. So, it is the first time the Cup teams do go to Kentucky for a race on their schedule, but many of them are familiar with the track even though it sounds like it is brand new to them.

Even if it was the first time for some of them to be on the Kentucky track, NASCAR allowed a test session over several hours on Thursday, before they actually took to the track for practice or qualifying for the weekend on Friday and the race Saturday night. Of course, the rain out of the first test session did throw a little wrench into to works and then rain causing qualifying to not be completed has given us the starting lineup for tonight based on the second practice session, (Wow! That sure sounded confusing, didn’t it?)

So, tonight’s race becomes even more of an uncertainty (as to who might win) with the way they are lining up. Some of the faster cars didn’t even get to qualify, so lining up according to the practice session times doesn’t tell us the whole story. I do like this new way of qualifying NASCAR has been tweaking here and there this year, but it is unfortunate for those who might have actually qualified on time before the rain came. That means drivers like, Michael Waltrip don’t get to race tonight (and he would have made it in according to his qualifying time before qualifying was called). In particular, he would have really liked to have run in this inaugural Cup race at what he and his brother Darrell would call their home track. Unfortunately, because of the that last rain shower, that won’t happen this time.

There was a lot of talk during the week about how the drivers that had raced in the Nationwide series might have an advantage, but from this fan’s view, I just don’t think that will be the case. It is my opinion any advantage those drivers may have had is pretty much eliminated by that six hours of testing the teams had on Thursday. I could be wrong but there is a reason why they often call the NASCAR Cup drivers the best in the business and I think they and their teams learn very quickly. Being able to spend that much time on the track on the same weekend they race on it has to be an advantage for all concerned.

Now that I’ve said that, it is this fan’s opinion tonight’s race should be a very interesting one. Kentucky Speedway is a track that is rough and that makes it a little bit harder for these Cup cars to be set up and keep their splitters from rubbing the ground. I’m not saying that’s the only thing that will make it interesting but I am saying it will contribute to what will make it interesting.

Since they didn’t make it but about half way through the field before qualifying was rained out, (and so they would have time to get the track ready for the Nationwide race), this fan thinks this is a race that is going to be hard to pick a winner. Like any other weekend, you can’t tell a whole lot from the way they qualified, (and particularly from this weekend’s lineup being set up from the afternoon qualifying session), but there are some people that have run well here in the Nationwide series. Whether or not that will transfer over to the Cup race tonight is anybody’s guess, but from my view, it is a definite possibility and could affect the results of the race.

I expect tonight’s race could be a fuel mileage race and, as always seems to be the case these days, it will be a strategy race. The ones that can make the most of a tank of fuel and get out front and maintain track position will likely be the ones we see cross the finish line first. Pit stops will be critical and anyone that has problems in the pits will likely have a hard time keeping up with the front runners.

Kyle Bush is sure to be a threat to take the trip to Victory Lane tonight. His pole starting position and having the #1 pit stall just might mean trouble for the rest of the field. Kyle is often a threat to win and I don’t expect tonight to be that much different. Does that mean I’m ruling out all the others and declaring him as the victor? Nope, not at all. I don’t think he just going to walk away and dominate tonight, although it is possible. Personally, I think he’s going to have to work for it if he is going to win, but, he could be be first to take home the checkers from this inaugural NASCAR Cup race at Kentucky Speedway tonight.

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

NASCAR at Daytona from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanThe big question has already been answered about the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona this weekend. That question was how the different drivers were going to handle the “Two Car Draft”, (some call it “the Two Car Tango”), but it was answered before they got to Daytona this week. Many had already started planning their strategy a couple of weeks ago and most had already chosen their partners for drafting before unloading their cars off the haulers. It still remains to be seen how that strategy plays out simply because “stuff” happens in restrictor plate racing that can’t be forseen and this fan doesn’t see this night race at the super speedway being any different.

The next big question was wondering who would actually sit on the pole and that was answered Friday in the late afternoon and early evening. Mark Martin was fastest and took his fiftieth career pole in NASCAR Cup. He and the Daytona 500 winner for 2011, Trevor Bayne, will make up the front row. Yeah, I know many, (including myself), downplay the importance of qualifying on a regular basis but I do find it interesting that a fifty two year old and a twenty year old make up the front row. (Some have even said it is the old and new of it.)

From this fan’s view, after observing the practice session and qualifying (even though qualifying doesn’t tell us anything about the way the race will go), I don’t see this race being that much different than the race in February. The track is still smooth and still has a lot of grip according to the drivers. And it is very obvious it will be two-by-two unless someone discovers how to go faster in groups of three or four.

I look forward to this race with mixed emotions and it is my opinion the two car draft has changed restrictor plate racing completely. Now, when I say mixed emotions, I’m not saying they are negative emotions, I’m just saying restrictor plate racing is different than it was. In some ways, I kinda miss the big packs and watching them swap positions lap after lap. It seemed there was little to distract those watching because, at any moment, someone in that large pack of cars could get just a little squirrely and suddenly there would be mayhem and a bunch of spinning and sliding cars often changing the possible outcome of the race.

The “big one” usually affected more than just those close to the action, it affected anyone that couldn’t get out of the way. In those big packs, it could have been a contender, or someone with no chance of winning, that was taken completely out of contention and it didn’t matter which number was on the side of the car or who was driving.

With the two car draft, there is still a lot of action and they still run in packs. The difference is, (at least from my view), there is a bit of separation and when one of the twosomes get a run, they seem to blow by everyone and then they hit a wall. Of course you know I’m not talking about a literal wall (at least, most of the time) but a wall of air that seems to slow their progress and let’s someone else take over until they hit that same momentum killer.

In this case, momentum is key and that is what makes the end of the race so interesting. The teams have to time their move just right if they want to win. A great example of this was the race at Talladega in the spring. With eight of the contenders finishing four abreast and only thousandths of a second apart at the finish line, to me that says the finish at Daytona tonight could be one of the most exciting in recent history, including the race in February and the one at Talladega.

So that begs what I call the final question… Which of the groups of two will be crossing the line first to take the checkers? (Wow, I have to admit, you do ask hard questions.)

I have listened to several during the week talk about who should win because statistics say they should. Personally, I’m a little weary of listening to statistics because this is restrictor plate racing, plain and simple, and anything can and usually does happen.

Just because someone has done well in the past and has won or finished in the top five over the last several trips to a restrictor plate track doesn’t really mean that much to this observer. There are simply too many variables when it comes to this type of racing. That is why you see someone like a Trevor Bayne win the 2011 Daytona 500 in only his second start in a Cup car and only a day or two after his twentieth birthday.

So does that mean I’m discounting the possibility of someone like Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon or Dale Jr winning simply because they usually run well at restrictor plate tracks? Of course not; what I’m saying is, just because they usually run well, or because the statistics say they should run well, doesn’t mean they will. When it comes down to the end of the race tonight, we could see a first time winner on a restrictor plate track, or we could see someone that has won before… uh, statistically speaking that is…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 2, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Michigan After Thoughts from A Fans View

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Joe Gibbs Racing came away from Michigan with another victory for the 2011 season, but it wasn’t Kyle Bush leaving with the trophy… It was Denny Hamlin and he finally managed to win a race without some of the late lap difficulties he has experienced over recent weeks.

As expected, the race was coming down to fuel mileage when the late caution flag came out and removed the possibility of running out of fuel from the equation. After that it was all about who came out of the pits first, maintaining track position and being fast for the last six laps. (From this fan’s view, the one that got out front first was likely to stay there once they got up to speed.)

Because of a great pit stop for two tires and fuel by the #11 FedEx JGR team, Denny Hamlin came out first and got out front in the clean air on the restart after Matt Kenseth spun his tires coming to the green. Hamlin never reliquished the lead after that although Kenseth did do everything he could to try and win right down to coming out of the last turn sideways.

Now it’s just my opinion, but I have two things in particular to say about the end of the race and either way it went, it was going to be interesting. Whether it came down to fuel mileage, or down to what happened (that late race caution), there was no way of knowing how the race was going to end. We would suppose it would come down to fuel mileage at this track because Michigan seems to always have long green flag runs usually to the end of the race. With the late race caution coming out when it did and changing the strategy all round, the double file restart came into play and track position became the deciding factor. Had the caution not come out so late in the race, I personally think the ending would have been less dramatic, although I do think Matt Kenseth would have finished ahead of Denny Hamlin.

Hendrick Motorsports had another disappointing weekend with Jimmie Johnson finishing twenty seventh, Dale Jr finished twenty first (after being forced into the wall by team-mate Mark Martin.) Jeff Gordon finished seventeenth even though he was running in the top ten when the final caution came out and the pit stops started. Mark Martin was the only Hendrick team to finish in the top ten and he was ninth. Dale Jr was visibly upset with Martin running him up the track into the wall and said so in post race interviews. (From this fan’s view, he had every right to be, but I am sure they will work it out before the next race.)

It appears Kurt Bush has got the qualifying down after starting on the pole for the third week in a row, but he hasn’t been able to turn those qualifying efforts in to wins as yet. He finished eleventh and had moments it looked like he was going to finish much further back. In fact, both of the Penske Dodges had bad days and both were probably happy to get away from the Michigan track after their disappointing runs.

The Fords of Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards both finished in the top ten with Kenseth in second and Edwards in fifth. Greg Biffle and David Ragan finished fifteenth and twentieth and both were hoping to finish much better.

By the way, Kyle Bush finished third for JGR and just never seemed to be able to get out front when it counted. The Stewart Haas teams finsihed sixth and seventh and the the only strong finishers for RCR were Paul Menard and Clint Boyer who finished fourth and eighth respectively. Not bad, but still not what they were hoping for either.

Just speaking as a fan, Michigan is not one of my favorite tracks although I do like it. Oh sure, it has speed and more than one groove to race in, but it is hard to pass on. From my view, it is only interesting at the start, when they restart after cautions and when the laps are winding down and all of us wonder who will be able to make it on fuel. Well, that is unless a caution comes out late and takes away the drama of the fuel situations like it did this last weekend. Hey, I’m not complaining… I’m just saying…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 22, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Michigan from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanIt may not seem like it but Michigan is a track that all the drivers love, yet at the same time, they get frustrated with how the racing goes there. There can be a lot frustration from the way they think they are running and then finding someone is running better in a different groove. Now, that’s not to say the other person is going to outrun them but it sure can be aggravating to think you’re running well and find you’re going to have to work much harder than you thought, just to be able to keep up.

First, let’s look at some of the obvious reasons Michigan is such a likeable track for the drivers. It is a wide track, made for speed and has multiple grooves for racing. Each one of the drivers can find a place on the track that is comfortable for them to run consistently fast for as many laps as they can. It is a track made for racing with plenty of room to pass and there aren’t generally a lot of cautions so strategy and fuel mileage come into play, which also puts a little more of the end result in the driver’s hands. If they can milk enough miles out of a gallon of gas, there is a good possibility they can take the trophy even if they aren’t the fastest car on the track.

If qualifying consistently on the pole says anything about winning then Kurt Bush should be a strong candidate for ending up in Victory Lane Sunday afternoon since he took his third straight pole this weekend. Yeah, I know one fast lap doesn’t a whole race make, but even at that, it would appear he has been running consistenly fast at the end of the last several races, even though he hasn’t taken the win in a while. Say what you will, but eventually the law of averages has to come into play somewhere along the way. Unless something drastic happens to him or his car on Sunday afternoon, I think he is a strong candidate for taking home the trophy this weekend.

Now that I’ve said that, I have to remember the Fords seem to always run well at Michigan and I think the Roush Fords in particular are going to be mixing it up in the final laps of the race Sunday. I am sure Carl Edwards wants to show last weekend was just a fluke part failure and not a trend for the future for the #99 team. Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle should be considered as contenders for this one too.

The Hendrick teams seem to be suffering from a little lack of speed again this weekend. I’m not saying they won’t race well, but I am saying they didn’t show much in the qualifying session. Dale Jr was the fastest Hendrick entry but that was only fifteenth. No matter how positive I try to make it sound, they all have a long way to go this weekend. (But it wouldn’t be the first time I was surprised by their raceday performance over qualifying either.)

Do I dare leave without mentioning the Toyota teams of Michael Waltrip or Joe Gibbs Racing? No, but I do think it is possible any of them could win although I’m just not sure how much of a long shot that would really be. If one of them could pull it off this weekend, it could prove to be interesting in the weeks to come.

When it comes to the RCR cars, I feel the same way about them as I do the Hendrick Chevys. They didn’t qualify well, (other than Paul Menard), and I am at a loss as to how they will fair on Sunday afternoon. It could be the Chevy teams were actually hurting for speed, or maybe, they just didn’t want to show all they had; (you be the judge on that one.)

400 miles at Michigan goes fast, but not necessarily according to plan. I’m looking for the biggest factor to be fuel mileage unless there is a caution near the end of the race. If that happens and fuel mileage doesn’t actually prove to be the deciding factor, then I reckon it will just come down to who has the fastest car on a consistent basis all day…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 18, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Pocono After Thoughts from A Fans View

Once again, Denny Hamlin had the car to beat at Pocono. He led a lot of laps, it seemed he could move to the front anytime he wanted and it looked like it was going to be another dominating performance and Pocono victory for him. Unfortunately, the continuation of his 2011 racing luck, (or lack thereof), was more than evident Sunday afternoon and he finished nineteenth.

Carl Edwards was another that had high hopes of finishing up front at Pocono and possibly improving his points lead. He dropped a cylinder, went to the garage for repairs and finished thirty-seventh 141 laps down. He went into Pocono with around a forty point lead and came out with a six point lead over Jimmie Johnson (which really makes the points race in the top five or six very interesting.)

The Hendrick teams faired very well at the “Tricky Triangle” and three of them finished in the top ten. Dale Jr finished sixth, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth and, yes, Jeff Gordon won his second race of the 2011 season. That’s a pretty good showing for teams that were showing a severe lack of speed just a few weeks ago. It seems they are beginning to turn the corner a bit and becoming much more competitive than they were earlier in the season.
Kurt Bush finished second after starting on the pole and after Hamlin had his problems, he and Jeff Gordon were the ones to beat for the rest of the race.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished seventh and lead a lot of laps. He had a good run, but with the way strategy was playing out, this fan never did think he was going to win. It was a very good run for him, though, and he is one that could show up in Victory Lane very soon. Looking ahead just abit, this fan expects the Ganassi teams to do well at the Brickyard at the end of July.

Kyle Bush finished third even with having to put up some harrassment from the RCR teams of Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick, (in particular, Kevin Harvick.) Now, if you think it came about because of the “misunderstanding” between Richard Childress and Kyle Bush at Kansas, you’d probably be right. No, I don’t think Richard handed down team orders to harrass the #18 but it was very obvious there was some definite hard feelings still lingering from previous weekends of racing, at least between the drivers if no one else.

It appears Kyle and Kevin are going to be mentally sparring for some time yet. From this fan’s view, it is possible the two could be the draw for fans in the races ahead. That’s not to say the fans aren’t coming to see the races, but it does mean they are also coming to see what will happen between the two…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 16, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Kansas After Thoughts from A Fans View


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASCAR at Kansas From A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASCAR at Charlotte After Thoughts From A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASCAR at Charlotte From A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 28, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR All-Star After Thoughts From A Fans View

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Say what you will, but even though Carl Edwards didn’t win all the segments Saturday night, he did dominate the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In fact, from this fan’s view, after the first segment, there was little doubt in my mind he was going to win his first million dollar race. Oh I know it’s easy for me to say now, but in all honesty, even though Greg Biffle looked strong in the first part, there was hardly any doubt in my mind the race was going to be between Kyle Bush and Carl Edwards.

At the risk of sounding like a disgruntled fan, (which I’m not), even though there was a lot of hype leading up to the Saturday night, almost no holds barred event, I felt this was one of the more dull All-Star races, at least in my recent memory. Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t a good race; I’m just saying it was kinda uneventful. Though there was always the hope something might happen, it seemed to me, there were faster cars and slower ones and once they got sorted out, they mostly played follow the leader.

From my view, the only times the race was really exciting was during the double file restarts and once again, after they got sorted out, (which didn’t take long), it was mostly follow the leader and a lot of single file laps. Oh, I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but really… I’m not.

I found it interesting, as did others, that the Hendrick and Richard Childress teams performed so poorly. The Childress teams were basically a non-issue for the whole night even though Clint Bowyer started up front. He quickly dropped to the back to hardly be heard from again.

As for the Hendrick teams, well… it is just my opinion, but to me it seems they have been hurting for a thing called “speed” since late in the season last year. At no time recently have they been the dominating factor the were in the past. Yes, I know they’re all running okay, but they just don’t seem to have the horsepower or the handling to run with the Fords and Toyotas.

Speaking of the Fords, the Roush Fords are looking pretty tough. They have certainly gotten their mile and a half track program down and it looks like they are still wanting to make a statement with their FR-9 engines. Since they (and all of the Fords) have switched over to that engine, they have been showing some muscle and Carl Edwards, in particular, has made it known by his performance he is ready to challenge Jimmie Johnson for the Championship this year.

Matt Kenseth has also been quietly making a statement of his own and one has to wonder if he isn’t going to be challenging Johnson and Edwards during the Chase also. From this fans view, he has always been one to quietly move toward the front by the end of a race, (especially recently), and I think it has a lot to do with the FR-9 engine, too. Yeah, I know he has also struggled a bit, but I do think he is back to that quiet confidence that says, “Hey, you can ignore me for a while, but just wait… you’re gonna be staring at my bumper, a lot and soon.”

Unfortunately, Greg Biffle has had some fast cars, but just hasn’t been able to put a whole race together yet. This fan thinks the time for him to win is coming soon and it may not be just one and done. He may end up with two or three victories on the season and I am sure he is ready for it to start anytime now.

David Ragan has also had fast cars but hasn’t been able to put together his end game. I’m not saying he won’t, and he has been qualifying and running consistently good, but they just haven’t shown that end of the race strength yet.

There are those of the opinion the Childress and Hendrick teams were using this last weekend as a test session for this coming weekend. I believe that is a possibility, but not too likely. When they saw how outclassed they were by the Roush Fords it may have turned into a test session, but I don’t see any of them turning down the chance to take home a million dollars just so they can possibly run better in the longest race of the year.

With the 600 coming this weekend, if the other teams don’t show up with something better than they did for the All Star race, it could be another dominating Roush Ford night this coming weekend and a very long 600 miles for everyone else…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 24, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR’s All-Star Weekend from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanThere is nothing quite like the All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In fact, there is no other race like it in a NASCAR season and that is just one of the things that makes it so unique and special. Although the format may change slightly from year to year, the excitement and intensity of “all or nothing” for the drivers never gets old. It is a fun race, even with all of the intensity, and this year the winner takes home a million bucks.

And before that, there is the “Showdown” which gives two of the teams a chance at getting into the All Star race and taking home even more money. It’s called the Showdown and nothing could describe it better. It is a showdown and only two of the participants will make the All Star race that follows.

The Showdown could be just as exciting as the All Star race, simply because of the ones involved in it. Just take a look at some of the names, especially those in the top fourteen. Just listen to some of these names… David Ragan, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Burton, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Dale Jr and Bobby Labonte.

Just those names alone could mean a very competitive race, but there are others we won’t mentio+n here at the moment. David Ragan has been running strong lately as well as AJ Allmendinger. Add to the mix, Jeff Burton, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano and Dale Jr and I think it sets up a very competitive showdown. (The important thing to remember is that out of 27 starters and two twenty lap segments, only two will move on to the big one along with one fan favorite.)

Unfortunately, no matter how well the top thirteen run, only two of them will move into the All Star race, as I mentioned earlier, and then there is the bonus of one more voted in by the fans. Now, I could be wrong, but I think Dale Jr is probably the one that is assured to get in no matter whether he finishes in the top two or from the fan vote. Of course, I could be wrong about that but I’m already of the opinion Dale Jr wants to race his way in; it is a matter of proving he really is ready to make a run for the Chase not only to himself but to his fans and NASCAR nation, too.

I enjoy this racing weekend as much as any and probably a just little bit more than most depending on who may have a grudge against whom and which driver is willing to take the chance that none of the others are, or by taking that chance, takes out his competition and sometimes himself.

From this fans view, I think the format is what makes it so interesting. This years format for the segments sounds like it will be very interesting and although it is always similar, it is also slightly different. I like the fact that the way they will line up in the final segment will be determined by the way they exit the pits after the mandatory final four tire stop. That in itself ought to prove to be interesting.

Tonight’s race will be unique in itself and yet it will be much like a Saturday night trophy dash for some really big bucks. Let’s see, two races for some really big bucks, a little relaxing of the rules just to make the competition a little more interesting and the mandate from NASCAR to, “have at it, boys”, (with the warning to not step over the line of common sense and safety), and we should have a night of racing filled with emotion, drama and probably a little beating and banging just to make it real… Oh, and let’s not forget, at a track that says if there are any fines handed out by NASCAR tonight, the track will pay them in full…

Hm-m-m-m… What better way can you think of to spend a Saturday night…

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

NASCAR at Dover After Thoughts from A Fans View

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Racing at the Monster Mile in Dover was just as interesting as I thought it was going to be and, if you asked the drivers, it was definitely a challenge to their abilities as race car drivers. The concrete has always been a bit of a different challenge and if you add the circumstances of practice but no qualifying, you get exactly what we all expected… that’s right… the unexpected.

Matt Kenseth and his crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, made the call on on the final yellow to go for two tires and fuel and that put them out front with Mark Martin who decided not to stop. Between the two of them, the others just couldn’t catch and pass them so they finished first and second on the day.

Once again, strategy and track position played the most important parts in who finished where by the end of the FedEx 400 and the word gamble was mentioned more than once, (and the race wasn’t even in Vegas.) From this fans view, it appears gambling is playing a bigger and bigger part in the races these days, especially near and at the end of them.

Now it’s just my view, but from just listening to some friends and to some comments from others, some were disappointed there were no mix-ups among the drivers this weekend. As I stated in the earlier article, many were expecting a lot paint-trading to go on, especially between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Bush, but there was nothing going on between them at all. Harvick did have a few choice words for the officials and the pace car driver though. He didn’t like all the trash down at the bottom of the track and made his feelings known through his in car communications and, as has been the case lately, was his “not-so-happy” self.

To be fair, he wasn’t the only one unhappy with the track racing conditions. I’m not sure, but it seemed at least forty of the forty-three drivers had more negative than positive to say about the rubber buildup in the bottom groove; (those other three dropped out relatively early in the competition.) The complaint I heard most often was the inconsistency they were facing. If they missed the line by a couple of inches they had to let up until they could catch their cars as the drifted up out of the groove towards the wall. Also to be fair, Kevin Harvick wasn’t the only one complaining about the lack of cleaning of the track near the bottom… there were a number either during or after the race joining in that complaint.

From this fans view, it was a toss up between the track and tires that brought the most conversation from the drivers during the race. They liked the fact the tires lasted and the track was taking rubber, but many complained it was taking too much rubber and that was where the problem was. It was easy to see most of the drivers were taking the low groove and that may have contributed to the buildup of rubber down low. I don’t know but maybe it would have been a little better all round if there had been two grooves to race in, or at least one and a half.

This may be a bit hard for some to swallow, but, from this fans’ view, I don’t see what the big deal was. We all know NASCAR sells its drivers as the best in the world (and I’m not disagreeing) but if that is the case, perhaps they should quit griping about track conditions so much and do what they do best – drive! (Uh, perhaps another way of saying that would be, “Shut-up and drive…”) After all, what they get paid the big bucks for is to do just that. If they are the best, they should enjoy the challenge that every situation throws at them (and honestly, I think they do), but there is something that has changed about the racing, and more noticeable this year, than in the past. There seems to be more pressure on them to perform than ever before and in their frustration to do just that, the pressure is showing through more this year than usual.

Now that I’ve said that, this fan thinks there are several factors causing that frustration to be so evident. The largest factor in my opinion is how close the competition is. Some would call it “parity” and I can’t really disagree. Competition has never been tighter than in the last year and it seems all of the teams are figuring out just how to make their cars as fast as the other guys. In fact, (also from my view), lap times are getting closer and closer for all involved. Until someone consistently gets an advantage, the outcomes of the individual races is going to be a matter of strategy and track position and depend on a team and driver making no mistakes in the pits or on the track.

Uh, from this fans view, the other big factor would probably be the statement of, “Boys, have at it…” It is my firm opinion that will always be affected by temperament and, either fortunately or unfortunately, fatigue. For the most part, I think rivalries are fun and good for the sport, at least as long as no one gets hurt. Unfortunately, 3400 pound cars traveling at high speeds, or slow speeds for that matter, don’t leave much room for error if things do get a little too out of control, and, though we all like the excitement and the raised adrenaline levels, none of us wants anyone to get hurt… but like I said last time, “Boys have at it… just don’t be stupid.”

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 18, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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