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

Update on: Nascar At Martinsville … “Just A Fan’s View” After Chatter

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Well the race over the weekend at Martinsville proved to be a no-brainer if we focus on recent past performances at the 1/2 mile ‘paperclip’ in south-central Virginia. The Hendrick teams once again dominated the day as they have most trips to this track over the last several years.

Between Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon running up front most of the day and the overall impressive showing by the Hendrick teams, it left absolutely no doubt that they have the place pretty well figured out. As the stands cleared, the final results showed the Hendrick cars had finished first, second, fourth and sixth. Jeff Gordon finished fourth and that made his eighth consecutive top five finish. When you think about it, he didn’t have the win but that statistic isn’t too shabby, either.

Specifically, Jimmy Johnson lead 339 laps and no one could consistently keep him behind them all day, which is proved by his driving into victory lane after the race. Having the number one pit stall didn’t hurt his performance for the race either. He was strong as usual from beginning to end and, in my opinion, looks very strong to finish the year out front and take this year’s Sprint Cup. By doing so he would become only the second driver in Nascar history to win three championships in a row, (a feat previously accomplished only by Cale Yarborough and that puts him in pretty good company.)

Although it was a fairly typical Martinsville race, it progressed mostly without any major altercations. Jeff Burton experienced difficulty in the pits on the last stop and, unfortunately, it cost him a lap and some points in the standings dropping Jeff to third behind Greg Biffle who now is 149 points behind ‘Chase’ leader, Jimmy Johnson.

Greg Biffle and his team tried a strategy during the race that ended up hurting them in the final results as he finished 12th, but because of Jeff Burton’s problem in the pits, Greg moved to second in the Chase standings by a slim three point margin. In an after race interview, he said he was happy with that performance and was really excited to be heading to Atlanta next week.

Carl Edwards sits fourth in the standings, 198 points behind Johnson.

The next three, Bowyer, Harvick and Gordon are over 242 points out of first which in my opinion makes it look like their chances of coming close to even taking over the second spot are dismal and would require Biffle, Burton, and Edwards to help them by having some really bad finishes. Although strange things do happen in the Chase format, I just don’t think any of those three are going to have that much trouble in the near future, especially considering the tracks Nascar visits over the next four races.

Looking ahead to Martinsville next year, I know that Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are looking forward to race next Spring considering their after race comments. With their finishes this week of third and twelfth they certainly appear to have some of their problems with the track worked out. They finished strong and look to be strong this coming weekend in Atlanta. (If you remember the race from earlier in the year at Atlanta, Carl Edwards ran strong but his engine blew before the end of the race.) In any case, it should prove to be interesting to see how they measure up to the Hendrick teams in the spring time.

Overall, Martinsville was very much a normal short-track race with beatin’, bangin’ and the usual short track intensity and frustrations. The only noticeable recurring problem was a few problems with tires being over heated by the heavy braking required to slow the heavy C.O.T. cars. Some teams, noticeably, have a lot of work to do in that department.

See ya next time …
Rusty

Nascar At Martinsville: “Just A Fan’s View” of Beatin’ and Bangin’ at the 1/2 mile ‘Paperclip’

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The Stop for Nascar this week is Martinsville. (Wait a minute … you already knew that. That’s why they call you a Nascar Fan, right?)

Well, as most of us already know, Martinsville is a flat, 1/2 mile short track that yields high speeds and hot tempers more often than not. The pits are extremely cramped and the word from the crew chiefs to the drivers is usually something along the lines of, “Hit your marks, save your brakes and keep your cool.”

Now, do the drivers listen? Well … sometimes.

The qualifying was rained out on Friday as well as the practice session throwing a wrench in the works for the weekend. It also threw a wrench into the works for me because I try to get these reports out at least by Friday before the race so it isn’t such, “old News.” (Oh well, that’s racin’).

The rain-out will have the ‘Chasers’ lined up according to points and that is good and bad depending on who you talk to. Jimmy Johnson will start on the pole with Jeff Burton on the outside. Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards fill out the second row while Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick the third. All of this yields not only a good starting position for all of them, but great spots in the pits also.

If we take a look at recent qualifying and race performances at Martinsville, it gives the impression that some will benefit from the rain-out and some will be disadvantaged by it. Unfortunately, the statistics lean heavily on the winner starting in the top ten. that doesn’t mean the winner won’t come from further back in the field, but the chances are definitely much slimmer.

I think Jeff Gordon has a very good chance to finish up front this week simply because he always seems to perform well at Martinsville. (But I get ahead of myself). Because of the rain-out he will be starting eighth and have a poorer than normal pit stall because he usually qualifies nearer the front. This may affect his finish, but he still has a great chance of taking the checkered flag. Tony Stewart and Jeff fill up the fourth row.

The biggest thing I noticed during the first practice was the lap times separating the fastest from the slowest were only about a half second apart. That means the racing is going to be very tight and extra patience will be required by all. It seems I remember from my racing days gone by that it takes being about three tenths of a second faster than the person you want to pass to actually make that pass, (or should I say, comfortably make the pass. Does that mean with or without the beatin’ and the bangin’. All I can say is “time will tell.”)

That brings us to “Just A Fan’s View” opinion time. So, who does this fan think is going to win this weekend? Wow, that’s a great question. I kinda wish they would have had qualifying because pit placement is so important at Martinsville and that will figure highly into who the possible winner will be. In all honesty, it is going to depend on consistency in the pits and that ever constant strategy for fuel and tires. Track position will be the key to victory this weekend along with a little racing luck figuring into the mix.

I’m going to stick my neck way out there and choose the winner of the race to be, Jeff Gordon. He is hungry and knows his chances of winning at Martinsville are very good and that confidence could figure greatly into the victory being his this weekend. This weekend at Martinsville in my opinion is his best chance of visiting victory lane so far this year.

In any case, there’s no denying there will be more than a little beatin’ and bangin’ going on and more than a few altercations caused by paybacks, impatience and frustration.

Here’s one of my all time favorite short track memorable quotes after an altercation that resulted in a driver being spun out by another. It goes something like this: “Look, I tried you high, I tried you low and then, ‘cotton picker’, it was time for you to go!”

Now, I know you can tell I have slightly edited that, but no matter, I’m sure we’ll see some of that happen at Martinsville this weekend. That’s one good thing about the C.O.T. though — It can take beatin’ and keep on racin’.

See ya next time …

Rusty

© 2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

all rights reserved

Update on: “Nascar in Charlotte: After Chatter … “Just A Fan’s View …”

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Nascar at Lowe’s Speedway in Charlotte, NC proved once again that it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Jeff Burton came away with the victory and Kasey Kane finished a relatively close second. This was a race that went right down to the wire and was decided once again by strategy in the pits and the way the C.O.T. responds to clean air with the harder tires that need more downforce. It was a really good race and there weren’t any real controversial situations to contend with.

My last Friday, before-the-race pick for the win, Jeff Gordon, made a good showing even after bouncing off of the wall a couple of times near the beginning of the race and getting a lap down. It looked like he may pull off the win with about a hundred or so miles left to go. He finished eighth, (not a bad finish considering how hard he hit the wall the second time and for all of the problems that put him through.)

The top four “race for the chase” standings were slightly shaken up again for the second week in a row. Carl Edwards had some mysterious ignition problems along with just some bad luck. He dropped back in points for “The Chase” for the second week, but this time hurt his chances a bit more. He now sits in fourth place with five races to go. Now, I’m not sayin’ he’s out of it but he can’t afford any more bad finishes.

Kasey Kane improved his position by moving to only 86 points behind David Ragan for that coveted thirteenth place in the standings for those that missed “the chase”. (It still strikes me as funny that we talk abut the race for thirteenth place. Its amazing the value a “little” extra money can put on finishing so far out of first place.)

It was good to see Jeff Burton win but I can’t say it was totally unexpected. In fact, I did mention him in the ones I thought would be contenders for the checkered flag, I just didn’t pick him to win. (Oh well, I guess that means I finished thirteenth this week.)

Now, it’s “Just A Fans’ View” opinion time. There are a lot things I like about the C.O.T but there is one thing that really disappoints me. When it comes to the 1-1/2 mile tracks in particular, I’ve noticed that once a car gets out in front in the clean air that car seems to be able to pull away from the pack. I haven’t gone back and checked this next point out totally yet, but it also seems that the best finishes with the C.O.T. are ones that have had a caution near the end of the race. I think that is unfortunate, but, don’t get me wrong, I like the C.O.T. and I do remember the days when the race winners sometimes finished many laps ahead of the competitors behind them. What we have now is much better especially when the person we want to win is running out front.

Well, that’s the way I see it for now. Next is Martinsville … that should prove to be interesting. Tune in Friday for the next edition of “Just A Fan’s View” …

See ya next time…
Rusty

Nascar in Charlotte … A Fan’s View of Who Could Win This Weekend, (For The Record)

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It is no surprise Nascar is in Charlotte, NC this weekend. They’re supposed to be. I just wanted to say a few things for the record. What this is about is my opinion of who is going to win the Sprint Cup race this weekend.

First of all, I have to admit there is one in particular that I would rather see win, but, I fear you might think I am biased if I told you, so I won’t. I would rather just express who I think will win and if it happens to be the person I would most like to see win, all the better. If not, then I chose the right one anyway, (especially if the person I pick wins.)

Okay, enough rambling. Let’s take a look at the stronger runners in Friday afternoon’s Happy Hour practice. I have to admit that Jimmy Johnson looks pretty strong and actually finished with the fastest lap times for the practice. Carl Edwards was a very close second and could prove to be the real competition for Jimmy. If you just look at the practice session times, it looks as though this one is going to be an endurance run for the two on the front row. I guess I can’t get away from the fact that Greg Biffle is starting inside on the second row. With the results of his testing it looks as though he will be tough also and I have to throw him into the possible mix.

I would say that most think Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards are the two front runners this weekend. Unfortunately, I don’t agree with the masses. I mention this because the same thing that happened at Talladega last week could very likely affect the outcome this week (although I don’t think Carl Edwards will be the “culprit”). Racing at Lowe’s Speedway offers the possibility for a “Big One” that can take out any of the top contenders at any time during the race. We’ve seen that carnage before especially on restarts later in the race. We’ve also seen the absolute unexpected happen very near the end of the race that radically changes the final result. In fact, that happened to Ryan Newman in the race at this time last year.

Tony Stewart was awfully strong on the long runs in practice Friday afternoon and that could cause a person to think he is a real contender for the checkered flag Saturday night. I think he has an excellent chance, but he isn’t the one I believe is going to win.

Kevin Harvick is due and so is Jeff Burton, but, they don’t top my list either although I do believe they will be contenders in the race.

Brian Vickers or Casey Kane would be my dark-horse candidates and could very possibly play into the mix at the end. I think it all depends on how the action in the pits and the strategy for tires and fuel plays out.

That brings us to a couple of drivers that are quite capable, although unlikely, to win. Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon, ( I can’t believe I am saying Jeff Gordon is unlikely to win). Personally, I think a lot of things need to go right for both of them for either one of them to end up in victory lane. If this were last year, I would have to give the edge to Jeff Gordon simply because of the way the breaks just seemed to go right for him most of the time last year. (That hasn’t been the case this year.) Jamie McMurray has been up and down all year, (I guess most every year he’s been in Cup so far, but he does have the capability to take it to victory lane). It is hard for me to choose him as the winner this weekend simply because of the inconsistency factor and some bad breaks.

With forty three great drivers in the field and all of them lined up according to points because of the rain-out of qualifying, who do I choose out of the forty-three starters?? It is a really hard decision, but, I choose Jeff Gordon. I think he is absolutely due for a good finish even though the odds are against him and I do believe he is going to get his first victory of the season this weekend.

Well … there it is. I know it’s a long shot, but, that’s the way I see it and I’m sticking with it … this week anyway. I think it goes without saying, next week could be a different story …

See ya next time …

Rusty

Update on: “Nascar At Talladega … A Fan’s View… “

Well, I’ve had a chance to listen to a few of the day after the day after chatterings and I find that more than one person actually agrees with me. It makes me feel good to know that I’m not totally out in left field.

Although I’m sure there will be those that disagree, I think I’m in pretty good company. Jeff Burton, I find today, stated yesterday that he thought the yellow line should be thought of as a wall. That was only one thing he said but I am glad that my statement agreed with one as knowledgeable he is. It makes me think I am on the right track in my thinking processes.

According to reporters on Sirius Radio, Mike Helton clarified the rule yesterday by stating that in the future there would be no passing below the yellow line, “PERIOD”. I guess that pretty much removes any debate on the issue. I am glad a definitive statement has been made. He effectively removed any gray area.

Now for my own view of what Regan Smith states. I’ve surmised from listening to multiple interviews over the last three days, that the way he understands it, Nascar has basically told him the next time he should spin the person out and cause a big wreck.

I personally don’t agree with his assessment. My opinion of what they told him in the trailer was that “he should have held his line” (at least in listening to him explain it while being interviewed by more than one person on tv and radio.)

My understanding from what has been reported is that they told him to “hold his line” rather than dodge further to the left. Now remember, this is just my opinion, but this is not telling him to take a hard right into Tony’s left rear fender and purposely spin him out. If he would have held his line at Talladega this last weekend then it would have been up to Tony Stewart to control his car after making contact from the blocking maneuver. As I see it Tony then has two choices himself. If he continues blocking to the left, there is a good possibility he will spin to the infield. If he moves slightly to the right, then the race is on to the flag, no harm no foul.

I am sure there are many out there that have differing opinions and comments on this subject. My opinion is, “feel free to comment” don’t remain silent. Speak up! I’m going to.

I think the Yellow line is a good rule and that Nascar made the right decision on Sunday afternoon. That’s my view and I’m sticking with it …

See ya next time …