Nascar at Daytona (Feb 2009): The JAFV “After Chatter”

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There has been so much said over the last couple of weeks about Nascar at Daytona it is hard to believe much more could be said. However, I will say that the BIG event on Sunday afternoon left many fans thinking the end of the race was a relative non-event. (This is usually the way it goes when the end of the event is rained out and the field finishes according to the order they were in when the red flag was thrown.)

Now, don’t get me wrong… I understand why they called the race when they did and why some of the fans didn’t like it. However, it is a fact that some fans felt just the slightest bit cheated by not having a full race to the checkered flag.

You see, I didn’t like rain-outs when I was racing and I don’t like them now either, but they are a fact of life when it comes to racing whether at a small track or a big track. One thing no one can control in an outdoor sport is the weather.

I do understand the frustration of the fans though. This was restrictor-plate racing at its best and at a place that was really showcasing the restrictor-plate for Cup racing in a positive way. I’m sure there will be those that have opposing views to mine, but, I’m one of those that does like restrictor plate racing and I like it at the super speedways of Talledega and Daytona.

I know the drivers have their own thoughts about it (because I once was one at our local small tracks) but as a fan, I like the closeness of racing that it breeds. It really makes it a whole new game. It certainly adds the importance of strategy back into the mix and adds the ability to take advantage of any little thing back into the hands of the drivers.

It has been evident over the last couple of years in particular, hardly anyone shows all of their cards before the last ten laps of the race, especially at Daytona. I’m sure that some of the feelings of disappointment might have been different if the driver a fan wanted to win would have won because of the rain, but the call came when it did and we all have to live with it. (Besides, it was easy to tell that Matt Kenseth was not at all disappointed with the win even with help from weather. In fact, in the after race interview, he appeared quite overwhelmed by it. I didn’t hear anything directly, but, I really don’t think his owner, Jack Roush was bothered by it much either.)

Personally, I thought the race was disappointing in the way it ended, but that’s because I was looking forward to those last 10-15 laps. I wasn’t looking for another big wreck, but I was looking for all of the shuffling that takes place and who would make the right move at the right time and come out on top.

After all of the great racing we saw during Speed Weeks in all of the classes, it only figured that the 500 would be no different. I was expecting the big shootout to be between the likes of Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmy Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and maybe even Carl Edwards. These are just the ones I mention … there were others with names that aren’t quite as well known, (but probably will be one day soon.)

Well, be that as it may, the February Nascar race at Daytona is in the record books for now and there is nothing anyone can do to change the outcome; So we won’t spend any more time on it at the moment. It is time to turn our focus to the west coast as Nascar heads for California.

As we leave Daytona behind until the summer time, it is time to reflect on what Speed Weeks was like overall. It is my personal opinion that it was a really “feel good” time in many ways:

  • We saw a renewed bounce in the competitive step of Mark Martin and I look for great things to come from his team in the near future.
  • Jeff Gordon broke his winless streak by winning one of the Gatorade Duels.
  • Tony Stewart made a very strong showing with his brand new team and that will definitely prove to be exciting over the season.
  • Daytona was a sell out and that says something even in the face of the present economic downturn.
  • The racing was really, really good this year. It was exciting and on the edge, (except for the rain-out)
  • Jeremy Mayfield raced his way into the 500 and that makes a statement for the little guys.
  • Tommy Baldwin’s team made the race and offered a strong showing even though the team is brand new.

Well, we could go on and on but, pretty much anything that could be said has been said by someone in the last two weeks. I’m looking forward to the next race. Come on back Saturday and we’ll talk about the upcoming race in Fontana, CA right here at … “Just A Fan’s View”…until then,

I’ll see you next time …

Rusty

©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Daytona: The 2009 Racing Season Is Off To A Great Start

When everything is looking down in the market and the economic sky appears dark and dreary, one apparent bright spot is Nascar in Daytona. The consensus for “The Shootout” and the Gator Duels has been extremely positive and, as anyone that either watched the racing in person or on TV or listened in to MRN on Sirius/XM radio, can tell you…The racing was really, really good.

That has set the stage in anticipation for the big event on Sunday. The event appears to be ripe for some feel good stories, (as if we haven’t had some already)

Unfortunately, I am a little stretched for time this weekend because of previous commitments and may not make it back until the race is in the books. I do look forward to it as I know you do…

See ya next time…
Rusty

© February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View – Rusty Norman

and podcastnorm.com

At Just a Fan’s View We Love Nascar Racin’ and We’re Glad It’s That Time Again!!

Click below to hear this podcast on S3 Media player

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Hi everybody and welcome to the first post of the year for our new site right here at “Just A Fan’s View”.  It has been a while since we’ve actually done anything here, but, there are always reasons, (maybe some would call them, ‘excuses’), but we have been working hard to get some of this new year planned out. No matter what, I am excited and glad that we are back and it is time for the season to begin for Just A Fan’s View and Nascar at Daytona, FL.

I watched the “Shootout” on Saturday night and I have to say, I was definitely pleasantly surprised with the quality of the racing that went on. It was a great race even though the guy I was rootin’ for didn’t win.  It appeared the drivers all showed up ready to race which was evidenced by the fact that they were all up on the wheel and aggressively racing to win the first race of the 2009 season.

I have to admit, I enjoyed every minute of it.  Heck, I even enjoyed the pre-race commentary.  At least enough happened over the off season that the commentators had a lot to talk about and much of it was interesting and informative. Things have been happening so fast over the off-season that has been extremely hard to keep up with everything. Some things are probably changing even as I write this.

I really wanted to get something up here on the new site, and here is the first of many posts coming up over the rest of the Nascar season. You will notice some changes that we have made here on the site and I think you will like the things that are coming up.  We intend to have some fan interviews and lots of opinions offered about all the new and old stuff going on this year in Nascar.

I’m looking forward to being with you and we may even have new posts and podcasts up daily starting this Thursday with the twin qualifiers.

It sure looks like it is going to be an exciting and interesting year.  I can’t wait … I’m ready for some Nascar Racing!!!

See ya next time …

Rusty

Nascar Looks Ahead to 2009: Some After Season – After Chatter

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This will be a short report on the After Season-After Chatter. Not because there’s not a lot to talk about, but, perhaps I jumped the gun just slightly. I fully intended to have the new site up and running on its own, but, I need at least one more week. When I make the move it should be fully functional. That’s when I hope to have the RSS feed info available and all the other little details that I want to be there for you.

You see the problem is that I went away on a short vacation for Thanksgiving and just didn’t keep after the work side.  I goofed off and I needed it. Now I am back and I am running just a little behind, but I will catch up soon…

All of that aside, Nascar has really been buzzing with all of the challenges and situations that have come about because of the economic downturn here in the United States and around the world. It seems that everyone on the outside looking in has a suggestion for Nascar to help, “save the sport”, whether they need the help or not. I have listened and read  with interest and amusement as people have let their thoughts be known.

Some of the insight from seasoned writers and fans has been interestingly sound. Some has been outrageously out of touch and one-sided. A few have exposed their obvious envy of the ones that make the most money because they think those people should not be paid as much as they are and that their salaries should go to those that may be let go because of economic reasons. That seems to be the impression of more than a few but is usually because they are comparing the work they do with the “work” they think the drivers and others do. Hey, business is business and I think those that are successful right now, must know what they’re doing or they wouldn’t be successful.

Yes, it’s true, I have my own opinion as I know others do, but, let me say right here and now, you can’t fix it if it ain’t broke. There is a lot to talk about and a lot to consider but let”s remember that some of the facts are just now coming available. I know there is a lot we all should consider as fans and interested parties of the Nascar sport, but for some of the picture to clear up, we’re just going to have wait and see how it all plays out.  We can jump into the fray or we can wait a week or two and most of the foggy stuff will clear up and we will have a better view of the coming season and what really needs to be thought about for the good of all involved.

I don’t think there is anyone I know that has not been affected by the economy. Even while I was on my short little vacation in the southeastern United States I could tell the economy is affecting many people. In fact, you don’t have to listen very closely to find many of the conversations turning towards the times we are facing as individuals and a nation.

Those involved in Nascar are no different than those in any other “business” and those involved have to make hard decisions as much as the next guy. The situation is, times are tight and expenses have to be brought under control in one way or another. You can’t continue to spend money you don’t have unless you want to face some dire circumstances. There is absolutely no reason to spend money if you don’t have to. Isn’t it interesting how even big businesses have to face tight economics the same as small businesses only on a different scale and this downturn makes this more obvious than it might normally be.

Well, I think I’ve said about all I need to say on the subject for this week. Next week, look for more on taking a look back to this last season, thoughts on the C.O.T. and looking ahead to what teams (and fans) may find themselves facing in the new year.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

all rights reserved

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

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As the whole nation, (Nascar Nation, that is), already knows, Jimmy Johnson became only the second person in Nascar history to win three Cup Championships in a row. Joining him in that place in history with Cale Yarborough is his crew chief, Chad Knaus; the only crew chief ever to win three consecutive championships. The after chatter about the possibility of a fourth for the 48 Team has already started.

Although I know the airwaves, blogwaves and netwaves have been buzzing with the Jimmy Johnson three-peat, I have to say a few things about the weekend, but I’ll try not to bore you to death with repetition. I have my own view of the weekend and I just have to speak out about it and not all of it is just about the cup series.

It was no big shocker to me that Jimmy Johnson won the Sprint Cup and took his third consecutive title in Nascar. The 48 team, (and I purposely stress the ‘team’ part) is hard to beat. They have definitely raised the bar higher and could very well repeat this scenario again next year.
I do think several others will want to weigh in before they let that be accepted as gospel for 2009, though.

I know for a fact, Carl Edwards and Bob Osborn will have something to say about that. They ran exceptionally well this year and, except for some bad luck, could have very handily taken the Sprint Cup Title this year. I know they will be tough again next year and their performance over the last year warrants more conversation from this “Just A Fan’s View” during the off season. (This is another subject that will be run into the ground between now and Daytona in February, I’m sure.)

Along with the 99 team will undoubtedly be strong performers from this year like Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Kyle Bush, Kevin Harvick and, yes, even Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart. Although Tony is going to have his own team this coming year, I expect him to make some noise and show some strength in the 2009 season. I do expect all of these teams to show their strength starting with Daytona in 2009 and the new season is sure to be an interesting mix of several teams flexing their muscles for the entire year, possibly even some that haven’t been mentioned that much in the last year.

If there was anything that frustrated me while listening to the broadcast version of the Cup series race, it was the constant pumping by certain commentators in trying to keep the listeners on the “edge of their seats.” I have never heard so much overkill in recent memory. It seemed to me the commentators thought if they didn’t keep the viewers thinking that anything could go wrong at any moment, the viewers would change over to some other program and their ratings would plummet into the tank. They just kept on reminding us “if this, or that” happened it would be “The Thing” that would ultimately change the outcome. In fact, at times it seemed they hoped something would happen just so they could say, “See, I told you so.”

Hey … Commentators … Nascar fans watch Nascar races because they want to and they do it in their own way. They don’t tune in just to hear you talk and they may not watch every second of the race any more than the people in the stands do but they definitely know what’s going on.

I think the commentators often sell us, “the fans”, a little short. Maybe I should say, a lot short. It is almost as if they think we are completely ignorant of what the race is all about. You see, fan’s know that a part could break, a tire could blow or a driver make a mistake and end the drama in the actual competition for the championship. I find it more than a little disappointing that they think we, as fan’s, are completely in the dark without their input. That if they don’t tell us not to go away during the commercial breaks we could miss ‘the moment’ that changed the outcome.

I would merely present these as a couple of “What If” scenarios that very well could have happened on Sunday.

‘What if’ there would have been a major accident at the very start of the race that took Jimmy Johnson completely out of the race and him finish 41st or worse. I wonder how they would have tried to keep the fans interested then. What do you think the would have talked about for the rest of the broadcast?

‘What if’ Carl Edwards engine would have blown at lap 63. How would they have tried to generate interest until the end of the race.

‘What if’ both of these things had happened? What then …?

My point here is that anything could have happened, including these two I mentioned. Anything could have happened to remove the drama from the race and we, “the fans”, knew it. That’s why we watch it and why we don’t lose interest when certain things do, or don’t, happen. That’s why they call us fans!

Oh well, we can, and will talk about this and more in the “off-season”. I think that’s enough on that subject for now, though. (Feel free to leave a comment on the subject yourself, if you want.)

Since I first started this, I’ve focused mainly on The Cup series and I will continue to devote a lot of time to it next season too, but I am planning on expanding to covering the other two series, also. There will be plenty of stuff to talk about since there is so much going on throughout Nascar and I don’t want to ignore any of it. With all of the changes going on and with the economy’s impact on the sport, I know that there will be a need to look at it from “Just A Fan’s View” and that is what we will do.

In fact, I would like to start with a few thoughts on the Nationwide and the Truck Series championships in this week’s “After Chatter”. I just want to give you some thoughts as I reflect on the season ending races this last weekend in Homestead.

I was thoroughly impressed with the level of competition for all three series. In particular this weekend though, I acquired even more respect for the man, Ron Hornaday. He is not only one heck of a racer, but he is also one heck of good sport. Some of the situations he faced this year would have devastated others but he handled them with class and humility.

I have watched how he handled personal situations this year and how he handled the outcome of the championship race for the Truck series and I am more firmly convinced than ever, he is definitely a man of distinction, character and class. Although he was disappointed with not winning the championship, he was an impressively good sport about the loss. He even made a point in an after race interview that he intended to congratulate Johnny Benson on winning and then he went down and did it on camera.

He also had an impact on two other racers, one I knew about and one I did not. Kevin Harvick and … Jimmy Johnson. It has been interesting to watch Kevin Harvick mature as a person and an owner/racer over the last several years and I have more respect for him now than I ever did. As for Jimmy Johnson … well, he is … the three time champion. What more can I say?

As I watched the laps wind down to the end of the Nationwide championship, I found myself hoping that Clint Bowyer would win, just because … but I couldn’t help pulling for Carl Edwards. I think it is the first time I have watched a Nationwide series race all the way through in a long time, but it didn’t have anything to do with the drama of who might win. I just wanted to see who did win.

Just a little sidenote that I know others have already pointed out, Carl Edwards finished as runnerup in two of the three series this year. Wow, what does that say about his chances for next year’s championships?

Well, this is the end of the year for Nascar racing, but not the end of “Just A Fan’s View” for this year. We will be back the first week of December and, hopefully, every Tuesday after that with our “Just A Fan’s View” until Daytona when I hope to get back on the twice a week schedule.

Hey … this is Russ … and I hope to see you December 2nd here at “Just A Fan’s View”. Until then, Have a great Thanksgiving!

See ya next time …

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

all rights reserved

Nascar at Homestead: The End of ‘The Chase’ for 2008

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This weekend officially ends the 2008 season for all the Nascar series and will be a welcome end for some and an unwelcome time of finding out what the future may hold for others. Although ‘The Sprint Cup’ series could prove to be a historic event for Jimmy Johnson, the end of the race may still hold some drama for all Carl Edward’s fans out there.

The Chase is still slightly in doubt, but a lot of things have to go wrong for the 48 team for the outcome to be different than I expect it to be. I’m not so sure his qualifying spot needs as much attention as it is getting, but, a lot can happen that is completely out of their control when a team starts that far back in the field.

Because of being wa-a-a-a-a-y to busy this week, I didn’t get to hear, or watch, the qualifying attempts and couldn’t help but notice that the big three of the Hendrick camp apparently struggled (as usual) at Homestead. The fourth member, Casey Mears, was the best out of the camp and he is starting 12th.

On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be the way the 88, 48 and 24 teams wanted to start the final race of the year. (Maybe they were just sandbagging or were teasing the competition? Or maybe they were lowering their competitors’ expectations of them for next year hoping to gain an advantage on the “No Testing” rule recently instituted for next year. (I doubt it … I do expect them to move to the front once the race starts. Maybe I am just dreaming, though.)

Barring the unforeseen, it is likely Carl Edwards will finish at, or near, the front of the field simply because of the strength the Roush Teams always demonstrate at these type tracks. While we’re at it, let’s not discount the determination the 99 team has shown to take this championship away from the 48 team. Carl has, and will continue, to drive aggressively, and all out, to win this final race and hope that Jimmy has unexpected problems that cause him to finish at least thirty eight places behind him. (That is, ‘IF’ Jimmy Johnson actually leads a lap during the course of the race.)

I’m not going to be able to gather any input from the Cup practices on Saturday because of previous commitments but I am sure they will give a better idea of how all of the competitors will fare in the race on Sunday. That just means I will have to give you my opinions without the benefit of that input. (Ah well, worse things have happened … I suppose.)

So, what do I think is going to happen this weekend in Homestead? Hmm … Just looking at the starting lineup tells me that some were definitely prepared for qualifying and were able to run quick qualifying times while others were not.

I don’t think being able to run a couple of fast laps is going to make much of a difference on Sunday though. However, I do believe that being able to run laps consistently faster than the competition throughout the race will make an enormous difference in the final finishing order on Sunday.

I firmly believe ‘the long green flag run’ is going to be the norm on Sunday; that it will almost make the race seem boring at times and that decisions made in the pits to gain spots on the track will ultimately determine who the winner of the race will be. It is my opinion that the winner of the race may have no relation at all to who ends up winning the Sprint Cup. I firmly believe that will ultimately be decided when Jimmy Johnson can finish no worse than 36 places behind Carl Edwards due to possible accidents and normal attrition during the race.

Depending on what happens early in the race as far as accidents or part failures, the actual Chase for The Cup could be decided long before the race ends. Hopefully, the winner of the race will get a few moments of fame before all attention is turned to the Champion of the Nascar Sprint Cup Series.

I think this week is the absolute hardest week to pick an actual winner of the race, at least for me. I am thinking it could be a first time victory for someone or, at least, a first time victory for someone at this track.

I do believe the Roush cars are going to be very strong and that the winner could be from their camp. It is also possible that the winner could come from Michael Waltrip Racing or Roger Penske. I even like the possibilities for Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton of Richard Childress Racing and I would be extremely lax if I didn’t mention the possibility of Kyle Bush, Tony Stewart or Denny Hamlin out of the Joe Gibbs garages. As much as it may hurt some for me to say this, Kyle Bush could very likely finish out this year with another trip to victory lane in what has been an extraordinary year for him in all of three of the Nascar series.

All in all, I do not think the race winner will come from Rick Hendrick racing. That being said, I would like to see Jeff Gordon get a victory this year if for no other reason than continuing his record of winning every year since his first victory in the early nineties. It would not be a total surprise to see Casey Mears pull the unexpected victory out of the hat to finish off his year and career with Rick Hendrick Racing.

So, I guess that brings me down to the “Just A Fan’s View” choice of who will win the race in Homestead and my JAFV choice for The Nascar Sprint Cup champion for 2008.

Man … this is tough … but … I think it is a toss up between Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle for the race victory and I do believe it will at least be an interesting race, not necessarily an exciting race, right down to the finish. Probably the worst thing that could happen would be a green-white-checker finish for the one that finishes second.

Although that green-white-checker thing is always a possibility, I don’t think that will have an affect on who ends up winning The Sprint Cup. I do think that will be Jimmy Johnson and I do think he will finish in the top ten when all is said and done Sunday afternoon.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

all rights reserved

Update: Nascar at Phoenix … the ‘After Chatter’ from “Just A Fan’s View”

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Well … I would say Jimmy Johnson did exactly what he needed to do to keep distance between him and Carl Edwards in his attempt to win his third consecutive Nascar title … and once again … I called it before it happened, right down to the him leading the most laps.

So … who cares? Well, I do for one.

I know it sounds like I’m bragging, but I’m really not … I’m just glad I do call it right sometimes. I’m sure it sets me up for being humbled in the future, but, it feels good at the moment.

Besides, I have a very good friend that has a saying that goes something like this:

“He who tooteth not his own horn, the same remains untooted.”

This week, I tooteth it — Next week, who knows … maybe it could happen again.

Oh, well … enough about me and the “Just A Fan’s View” prediction of who would win the race in Phoenix over the weekend. Let’s talk a little bit about the events of the race.

To me, it seemed Carl Edwards struggled to move up through the pack unlike last week when it seemed nothing could hold him back. He was definitely mired back in the frenzy that went on most of the day for quite a while. Even when it seemed he was going to make up some positions something else would go wrong either in the pits or on the track. It just took a lot of time for him to move up into position to possibly catch Jimmy Johnson. He finally finished fourth.

The thing I find missing so far in the ‘after chatter’ of Phoenix is the incidents between A J Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart, (and let’s not forget Juan Pablo Montoya for the second week in a row.) Although I have heard a couple of things said about the situation, for the most part it didn’t make the headlines. At the checkered flag, it was pretty obvious from “A Fan’s View” that what happened was a little payback from Matt Kenseth to A J and it resulted in a lot of damaged cars, including Tony Stewart’s for the second time in the race and Montoya for the second, (actually third) week, in a row.

I’m not against payback, but I am surprised by the lack of chatter about it. Maybe that is because ABC decided to terminate their broadcast of the race to “honor their obligations” to “America’s Funniest Home Videos” instead of finishing their coverage of the race.

I think they made a drastic error in judgment and It is my opinion that ABC should be terminated from coverage of Nascar racing in the future. These are strong words I know, but, this is inexcusable.

First of all let me say, I understand more people watch the races when they are broadcast on the major networks and I can appreciate that. I just don’t think that ABC should be allowed the privilege of prospering from the popularity of Nascar in the future.

I realize this means possible problems for the future and I understand the situation but I also know that no one else would have interrupted another sports broadcast until it was over. That speaks very loudly of whoever made the decision to transfer the coverage to ESPN2. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone has ESPN2 to turn to. I personally wouldn’t have it because I hardly watch ESPN anything and don’t like the expense it adds to my monthly bill. I know it is popular for others, I just don’t watch it because I just don’t watch it. It’s a personal thing and I won’t get into that right now. (Maybe someday I will.)

Now that I’ve said all of that, it is time to look forward to the coming weekend in Homestead. The Chase for the Cup has been narrowed down to two, Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards. The rest are racing for the also-ran title. I think it is going to be an interesting race and finish to the Chase. Last week Jimmy Johnson and the the entire 48 team, did exactly what they needed to do.

This week, Jimmy only has to finish 36th or better and that isn’t much of a challenge … or, is it …?

See ya next time …

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

All Rights Reserved

Nascar at Phoenix: Racing at the Desert Jewell from “Just A Fan’s View”

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The Desert Jewell in Phoenix should prove to be an interesting race this week. I don’t know of anyone that wants to win more than Carl Edwards does, but this week could be the week that someone other than the Chasers finish out front.

There are several drivers that run well at this track and there is more than one that could take the checkered flag this weekend. The problem is figuring out which one will win, though. I’m just having a hard time choosing who I think the winner will be, but that’s okay … I’ll get to that later.

In the meantime, I guess we could take a look at how the field is lining for the start of the race. This is another week that qualifying wasn’t rained out and the field will start according to their lap times. Personally, I’m glad they aren’t having to contend with rain because it definitely makes the start more interesting and adds a little more drama to those beginning laps. It also makes talking about the way drivers qualified much more interesting than them lining up according to points.

As everyone already knows, Jimmy Johnson won the poll position and will be leading the field to the green flag. I find it fascinating that he is starting on the pole when the commentators last weekend tried to make the whole thing sound more intense than it actually is simply because Jimmy Johnson lost seventy some points to Carl Edwards. It seemed to me they were all but counting him out just because he had a marginal week last week. All of the hype aside, he now leads by only 106 points.

I suppose the thing at the top of my list for discussion is where Carl Edwards and the 99 team are starting from this week. He is starting approximately from the same location he did last week and we all know how that went for him. Don’t be lulled into complacency because this track is a strong track for Carl and he could very possibly finish out front just as he did last week. But for the present, I don’t think Jimmy will finish as far back from him as he did last week, especially if neither of them end up winning the race this weekend.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several others who could easily take the victory at Phoenix. Some of the honorable mentions this week are Jamie McMurray (starting outside pole), Kurt Bush (starting third) and Dale Earnhardt Jr (starting fifth as of this writing). David Reutimann as well as Ryan Newman are staring in the top six and, of course, there’s Jeff Gordon who you can never count out as having a chance at winning starting seventh. Of course there are others and one of them is Mark Martin who starts tenth. Kevin Harvick won the Truck race but I think he will have a tough time coming from the 19th starting spot in the cup race, (although stranger things have happened.)

I could probably mention most of the 43 drivers as potential winners of the race but I think I will quit here while I am still ahead. I would like to move on to who I think will win this weekend from this “Just A Fan’s View” perspective.

The truth is, I am having a tougher time than normal choosing which driver will finish ahead of the rest. Although I know who I would like to see win, I will try to be neutral in my choice.

Okay, this is a very tough decision, but, I do believe that Jimmy Johnson will win and that he will lead most of the laps (including the one that counts). It is possible that he could pretty much clinch the title this weekend even though I know that Carl Edwards is going to give his all to close the gap between him and Jimmy. I’m just not sure either of them will actually win.

I still think Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Dale Jr or Jamie McMurray have an excellent chance of possibly taking the checkered flag and taking home the trophy, as well as Kurt or Kyle Bush and, yes, even Tony Stewart. I guess you’ve noticed I think this is one of those weeks that anything could happen.

As always, I do think pit strategy will play a very important role in who will actually take the the coveted trip to victory lane and that is precisely why this week could prove to be won by the most unexpected player in the Chase.

Oh well, all of that doesn’t matter much, because I have already made my choice and it will be Jimmy Johnson driving across the finish line first. That’s my ‘View’ of how things will pan out at Phoenix this weekend and I’m sticking to it …

See ya next time

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

all rights reserved

Update: Nascar in Texas … The ‘After Chatter’ from “Just A Fan’s View”

(COMING SOON … Just A Fan’s View is moving to its own site in the very near future. Check back with us often and we’ll definitely let you know when it happens!)

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Okay, okay … I admit it. I didn’t pick the winner and things didn’t turn out quite the way I expected. I also admit it did turn out there was an exciting finish to a relatively uneventful and boring race with very little passing for position, except for the person that won and he seemed to be able to pass at will.

Hard charging Carl Edwards dominated the field right down to the last pit stop and his inability to advance after that last stop may have been a lot of smoke and mirrors in a effort to conserve fuel for the end of the race. His crew chief, Bob Osborn, made a call that everyone just figured was impossible and it proved to be the deciding factor in Carl’s trip to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway.

Now that I’ve gotten all of the cliches and expected statements out of my thought processes, I look back at a race that was dominated by one team, (the 99 team), and could have been one of the least exciting races of the 2008 Chase. Although it did turn out to be somewhat of a nail-biter at the end, for the most part, it looked as though Carl Edwards was going to lap the entire field at least once.

The gamble on fuel mileage at the end by the 99, 88 and 24 teams, ended any chance of the finish being completely boring because any of the three of them could have run out of fuel at any time. A quick mention of the top five finishers shows Carl Edwards first, Jeff Gordon second (a miracle in itself), Jamie McMurray third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Dale junior in the 88 car ran out of gas with about five to go and finished twentieth.

Any way you look at it, the race once again came down to a risky call made in the pits late in the race that resulted in another unexpected finish. It seems that strategy plays a bigger roll than ever in how the top competitors finish consistently, and sometimes unexpectedly, ahead of the rest. If Bob Osborn’s estimate of fuel mileage had been wrong by just a little bit, Jeff Gordon would have won the race.

In fairness we need to remember an interesting fact about risk-taking — you either end up ‘the Hero’ or ‘the Zero’. Fortunately for Chad Knaus at Atlanta last week and Bob Osborn at Texas this week, they both wear ‘the Hero’ hat. Had Chad Knaus not taken the chance in Atlanta, Jimmy Johnson’s lead would be even less this week than it is. My opinion is that it was a 35 to a 40 point decision the same as the fuel mileage chance Bob Osborn made in Texas.

It is interesting to watch these two crew chiefs go about their work week after week. They are both very talented and have fared quite well with what I am sure they would call their “calculated risks”. They both continue to make tough, gutsy calls and both have come out winning the praise of those they compete with. I guess at some point it does beg the question though, “When will the luck run out for either of them?”

As it stands right now, the Chase is closer than it was a week ago but it is still Jimmy Johnson’s to lose. The next race could either increase his lead or could decrease it and make the Chase even more interesting by the time the teams arrive in Homestead. It is expected that both the 99 and the 48 teams will run well at Phoenix, but there is no guarantee that either of them will win.

There are others that have the opportunity to make the trip to victory lane in Phoenix. Tune in to the Saturday edition of “Just A Fan’s View” when we will discuss the possibilities. For now, though, it is time to say goodbye to Texas for this year and hope that next year will be at least a little more exciting of a race before the last ten laps or so.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

Nascar in Texas: from “Just A Fan’s View…”

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How can two tracks be so similar and yet so different?

If we take a look at the two tracks, Atlanta and Texas, they are quite similar in size and banking, but much different in age of the asphalt and transition from the banking to the straightaways. Those appear to be the biggest differences from my point of view and it is what gives the Texas Speedway a character all its own when compared to Atlanta.

Both tracks have 24 degree banking and both are one and a half mile in distance, but that is where the similarities stop. According to the drivers, Atlanta is just plain slippery and the surface is old and abrasive, kinda like old Darlington used to be. It chews up tires quickly and the only thing you can do as the tires begin to wear is slow down or put it in the wall, (which once again according to the drivers is in a lap or two.)

If we look at the last nine laps in Atlanta last week, those that took new tires at the last yellow flag consistently moved to the front past those that didn’t. Jimmy Johnson was the most noticeable as he went from eleventh to second and, given a another lap or two, may well have passed Carl Edwards and finished first, but that’s just a ‘what if’ statement. The race was what it was and ended the way it did.

So, Texas is just another one and a half mile oval, right? Maybe so, but I’m interested in seeing how the tires hold up throughout a run and how much the drop off in lap times will be. I think that will be one of the important key factors in the results at the end of the race.

Another thing that will prove to be interesting is that the field was able to qualify this week and the difference in where the Chasers pit is totally different than the last three weeks. It is my opinion this could make the largest difference from the last three weeks in who finishes out front.

This week, the front runners in the Chase are not lined up in the pits according to the standings.

  • This week, Jeff Gordon starts on the pole and has the first pit stall and Jimmy Johnson will not have that advantage.
  • This week, Martin Truex Starts second and Carl Edwards is beginning the race back in sixteenth. That will also affect Carl’s ability to make anything up in the pits.
  • Greg Biffle, instead of starting third, will be mired back in nineteenth place. All of this could make a big difference in the way things wring out as the race progresses.

This week should be no different than other weeks with the C.O.T. Track position will ultimately determine the final outcome of the race and that will be affected by strategies and decisions made in the pits.

I find it interesting that several of those that are situated in the middle to the back of the top twelve in the Chase standings and need any type of advantage to make any advancement in the Chase standings, are starting ahead of the top four. It makes me ask the questions:

  • “Would the Chase standings be closer if we wouldn’t have had qualifying rained out over the last three weeks?”
  • “If things were closer would this week’s starting lineup shake things up when the checkered flag drops at the end of the race?”
  • “What if all of the top twelve were separated by only 225 points?”

These are all interesting ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ questions, but the facts are that the three straight qualifying rain-outs did give an advantage to those highest in the points at the time. Whether or not they could capitalize on that advantage depended on how prepared they were for the three tracks they raced at and whether or not they had part or equipment failures of some sort. The facts also showed that not everyone had great luck in that department during those three weeks either.

I guess that is what makes the Chase so exciting, isn’t it?

That brings us to the “Just A Fan’s View” opinion of who will win this weekend and, as usual, it is a hard choice because of the way things are shaking out so far this weekend.

I know how strong Matt Kenseth was at Atlanta last week and how incredibly fast Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards were.

Jeff Gordon has not fared well at Texas in the past but consistently ran up front at Atlanta last week. This could bode well for his chances of winning the race this week in Texas, but I’m not sure about that either.

It is very possible the winner this week could be one that is unexpected. Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and yes, even Dale Earnhardt, Jr could be in victory lane at the end of the race this weekend.

You see, Jamie McMurray has been running strong over the last several races and is my strongest candidate for a dark horse winner this weekend, but, it is also possible that Kurt Bush could come home with the victory as my unexpected second choice for a dark horse winner.

With the way everyone is all over the place in the line up this week, it is a harder choice for me than usual.

I guess I shouldn’t leave out the one that has been the most consistent and say that Jimmy Johnson is a very strong choice for the visit to victory lane at the end of the race. This is his best chance to finish in the middle of the pack for the race and not lose a lot to those behind him. I do not think he will win but I do admit the possibility.

Carl Edwards is also strong at this type track and with Bob Osborn in the pits as crew chief, his chances are also very good this weekend.

Alright, enough of this avoiding the issue of who will actually win. It is time for the rubber to meet the road, stick my neck out and choose the winner.

I guess my problem is that I think it is a toss up between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon and I am really torn between the two. Naturally, I would like to see Jeff Gordon end his drought of winning and take the victory but, I know how strong Matt Kenseth is at tracks like these, (which holds true for all of the Roush teams.)

Wow, as I said, this is tough, but here goes.

Jeff Gordon will win this weekend in a tight battle that goes right down to the wire and Matt Kenseth will finish in the top five along with Dale Jr, Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards.

Well, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it, no matter what.

See ya next time …

Rusty

© 2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

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

Coming Soon. Just a Fan’s View will be moving to its own location. STAY TUNED for the MOVE!! We’ll let you know!

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Racing in Atlanta was fast, slippery, at times a little wild and the finish … well … it was as I predicted. Carl Edwards won the race and that could prove to be an ominous precursor of who will win the race in Texas this coming weekend. I also predicted Jimmy Johnson would finish in the top five and he accomplished that by finishing second. Now, I’m not bragging but I do feel pretty good about both of those choices.

Chad Knaus once again made a gutsy decision in calling Jimmy to the pits for tires on the last yellow of the race. At first glance, it appeared to be a questionable call that could have either cost him a lot of points or moved him up to the front. The latter proved to be true as Jimmy went from eleventh to second in the single file start with nine laps left to go. He flew through the pack and, in my opinion, if there would have been two more laps or a green-white- checker finish, the end results up front could have been slightly different.

I have to be honest here, I didn’t think it was a very good call that Chad made, but when I saw how fast Jimmy was picking off the competition and moving toward the front after the last restart, I was absolutely amazed and once again realized why Chad Knaus is the crew chief and I am just a fan looking on.

It looked like it was going to be a bad day for the 48 team after Jimmy was tagged by Nascar for going to fast in the pits.That moved him way to the back and put him a lap down. At the very least, it looked like he was going to lose at least sixty points and could have lost as many eighty. Instead of losing points to the others in the Chase, he actually added to his lead slightly even though he finished second behind Edwards.

A quick look at the top twelve finishing order shows that all five of the Roush/Fenway team cars, all four of the Hendrick teams and two of the Joe Gibbs cars finished in the top twelve spots. Kurt Bush also made another strong showing for Penske Racing, showing they are becoming more competitive once again.

I heard quite a bit of chatter about the tire that Goodyear brought to the track from commentators and teams, but in reality, this “Just A Fan’s View” of the situation is, they brought a reliable tire and shouldn’t have to take too much blame. The track is just getting old and abrasive. Some compare it to the way Darlington used to be. That limits what the tires can actually be called upon to help as far as this situation is concerned.

It is my opinion that the high speeds and the heavier cars along with the bump stops and the higher roll centers, are very demanding on the tires and it would not matter who manufactures them. It is just the way things are at the moment. Time will tell if changes are made to help the tire maker even though the word is Nascar says it isn’t going to make changes to the C.O.T. at the present.

This race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was a great race. It proved once again that the race isn’t over until the checkered flag drops. I think that the track and the tires just show us all how good these Nascar drivers are. I don’t know of any one on the track that didn’t have to manhandle in their car in some way or other to make it go as fast as it could and still keep it going the right direction. It was a handful with the slippery track and the hard tires.

Still, I am glad that the drivers don’t have perfect conditions at every track because they are touted as the best drivers in the world and they prove it week in and week out by the way get every hundredth of a second out of these cars. I like it when a driver like Carl Edwards gets out of the car and doesn’t complain about how bad the tires are but says, “It is fun and I hope they keep on running tires like this at this track!”

Well, that about says it all.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Atlanta: Some Thoughts and “Just A Fan’s View” of Unrestricted Wide Open High Speed Racing

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The top twelve in points will start up front again this week because of the third consecutive rain-out of qualifying in Nascar Sprint Cup Racing. That makes pit selection and starting positions easy to figure out, but has caused a lot of fan chatter about the way Nascar handles inclement weather, (especially on qualifying day.)

Because this has been an unusual year of rained out qualifying sessions, (ten to date), it has become one of the hottest fan topics of the year, especially in the the last couple of weeks. There are calls for changes to be made so that it be “fair” to the ones that have to qualify to be able to race in the event of the weekend. This is in addition to the ever running criticism of the top 35 rule. Some have even called it the “top 35 protection rule”. I emphasize the word “protection” because that’s what seems to be the understanding of many of the vocal critics of the rule used to place the top 35 along with the others in case of rain outs and other situations that may arise.

So … I guess my first questions are why is this such a big deal? Why is it that everything Nascar does to keep things going disagrees with so many fans? I’m not sure I know the answer for sure, but I do know that Nascar has been around a long time and they are still going strong and are pretty much as popular as ever.

I know most won’t care to hear about my experience in short track racing, but I’m going to give it to you anyway only because it gives some perspective to the situation.

When I was growing up visiting our local race tracks there were times they had time trials every weekend. When I actually started racing years later, we didn’t have qualifying time trials, we lined up according to points. During the regular weekly racing, the field was set by the points accumulated by the drivers or car owners except that the field was inverted. That meant that we had to start further in the back the higher our points were. If someone was new to the track or had no points for the season they also started all the way in the back.

Usually, the people higher in points sort of outclassed the ones that were low in points. Like any other kind of racing, some one has usually figured something out a little better than some of the others and they dominate for a while. Whether we are talking about local racing or Sprint Cup Racing there is a reason why they call it competition. When someone goes faster than the rest, the others work harder to find the extra speed and be the one out front the others are chasing. That’s just the way it is.

One thing different when I was racing was that we had a mid-season championship and an year-end championship. When those particular races were held during the year, we lined up by high points in front and so on. This worked out most of the time, but there were times that it seemed unfair to us as drivers because we had to dodge the less experienced drivers mishaps. (In reality, sometimes there was no way to dodge ’em.)

Another difference was, most of the time at our local short track, we didn’t have people that didn’t get to race because we didn’t have more cars show up than could fit on the track and in the pits. Most everyone that showed up got to race and in our class, we generally had two heat races and a feature.

Oh well, we will talk more on this and other subjects in the off season. For now let’s move on to one of the fastest tracks on the Nascar circuit.

Atlanta’s no restrictor plate racing is what helps make it one of the fastest tracks on the Nascar circuit. The track banking of 24 degrees and configuration completes the ‘speed cycle’. That means things happen fast at Atlanta and usually results in some ‘hard hitting’ action when something go es wrong.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the line-up because it is pretty obvious form the standings who is going to benefit. What I will spend a little time on is who I think is going to win this weekend in Atlanta.

There is no doubt that Rousche/Fenway Racing is good on the one and a half mile ovals. With that being said, I do expect them to have a very strong showing this weekend. Carl Edwards probably would have won the race in Spring except his engine blew spoiling his chances. Greg Biffle and Matt Kennseth both run strong here also.

I think it goes without saying the Kyle Bush will also be a strong contender this weekend. We know he is anxious to get back on the winning track with his disappointing finishes earlier in ‘the Chase’. Although I think he is pretty much out of ‘the Chase’ at the moment, I am sure he is interested in finishing out the year with a strong showing.

Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick are without a doubt hungry for points and wins and will be in contention for the win at the end of the race.

Although the Hendrick Motorsports’ teams have struggled at the mile and a half ovals, it is evident that they are making headway. I do think Jimmy Johnson will have a good advantage by having the number one pit stall even though he and the other Hendrick teams have been known to struggle at places like this. I don’t hink he is going to win the race this week but I do think Jimmy Johnson will be in the top five. I am not quite sure where Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr will finish, but I think they will be n the top ten.

So … who do I think will actually win this weekend? I’ll tell you it is a tough choice to make but I have to go with my gut feeling. I think it will be a toss up between three of them, namely, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kyle Bush. Any of the three could finish out front and that’s what makes it so hard to choose, but, choose I must. I do think Carl Edwards is going to take the checkered flag although I am having trouble choosing between him and Kyle Bush.

There are also some dark horses out there that could also win this weekend even though I think their chances are less. To name a couple would be Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon. Brian Vickers runs strong but I do believe his equipment is just not reliable enough yet. As for Jeff Gordon, he can win any race he is in. He has proved that over his career and this week is no different. I personally believe they are just missing a little speed so far. That could change, but, I see next year turning out much better for Jeff. I think this year he is just doomed (so to speak) to finishing in the top five for ‘the Chase’.

So there it is, my choice for winning the race at Atlanta this weekend is Carl Edwards. That’s the way I see it and I’m sticking with it.

See ya next time

Rusty

©PCN Productions and Rusty Norman