Playoff Two At Richmond Under The Lights

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

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It’s another Saturday night under the lights for playoff race number two and it’s at Richmond Raceway. After last week’s race at Darlington, this one at Richmond becomes even more stressful than last week at “the Track Too Tough To Tame.” Richmond Raceway is another that has a descriptive term it has acquired over the years. It is called “The Action Track.” We can only wait and see how much “Action” happens there tonight and see if the playoff picture gets another shake up.

I guess it was inevitable that Denny Hamlin would win a race this season and it came at the right time for him. He can basically relax a bit while the rest of the round of sixteen qualifiers have to maintain their place in the top twelve or make up as much ground as they can from their weak performances from last weekend. Last weekend’s race was devastating for several and challenging for others. Not all of what went on was because of preparation problems. Some was just bad luck and being in the right place at the wrong time. From my view, the Hendrick cars got the worst of it except for Kyle Larson. He starts on the pole tonight.

If there can be anything picked up from last week’s race, I would say the race for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship is still pretty much between the two that were battling for the regular season Championship. You already know Denny Hamlin finished first and Kyle Larson finished second last weekend and you know it went right down to the end. The two of them sit fairly comfortably at the top with good points margins. The rest of the top sixteen have some work to do.

There is one thing to keep in perspective. Last weekend at Darlington was only the first race of the first round of the nine playoff races before the final four race for the Championship. There are already four drivers in trouble for making it to the next round only two races away. They head into this race tonight with a little more pressure on them than the others.

Michael McDowell is in the worst place of the sixteen and just about needs to win to even think about making it to the round of twelve. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying there’s no way he can make it to the next round, especially after the way last week went for several of the contenders; I’m just saying he either needs to win or get a lot of help from other contenders having trouble like he and others did at Darlington.

The next one in doubt is Kyle Bush. He was definitely not in a good place after his run-in with Austin Dillon and the wall. As was made clear in his assessments after the incidents that put him out, he was very unhappy with the way his car was running and didn’t appear to have much of a positive outlook for his own advancement to the next round. Of course, that doesn’t mean a lot at the moment and it does remain to be seen how he might rebound from that original setback in the first race of this first round in the playoffs. If they can’t give him a car he is comfortable with, I don’t think this will be his year to move much further forward. But, we all know this is Kyle Bush we’re talking about and he can, and probably will, shake it off and maybe even win this weekend. Wouldn’t that change things up more than a little?

I guess Martin Truex Jr. would be the next one to look at for a possible winner at Richmond tonight. Afterall, he looked like he had a good chance of winning last weekend except for that late pit lane speeding penalty. It does seem to this fan that he has had his setbacks often this season but Richmond Raceway is definitely a track he can win at.

Alex Bowman, William Byron and, yes, even Chase Elliott have a lot of ground to make up after their problems last weekend. It seemed that the Hendrick teams had fast cars and I don’t expect that to change very much tonight at Richmond. All three of these drivers need to have good runs tonight and I’m sure winning is on all their minds and, in particular, William Byron. Most of what happened to him was not of his doing. To use an oft quoted phrase, that old nemesis called “racing luck” did raise its head on him at least twice last weekend. He and Alex Bowman both have a lot of ground to make up.

I don’t know if it’s just me or if you noticed it, too. It seemed to me that just about anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for many of those contending to move on to the next round. It also seemed that the ones considered to be underdogs had a lot of things go their way. I know that may sound a bit strange but it did (and does) seem that way to me. Well, I mean except for those two guys at the front, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. I reckon they will be hoping they’re not the ones having to face down the “racing luck” beast tonight.

I don’t know but, it sure seems to this fan that the shaking up in the standings for the playoffs isn’t over yet. If things continue as they have so far in this latter part of the 2021 season and Richmond being Richmond, it’s anyone’s guess what the round of twelve will look like in two weeks. We know Denny is in and it is a pretty good bet Kyle Larson will be too. That leaves a whole lot of room for a whole lot of shaking to go on – or not…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 11, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Darlington Kicks Off The Playoffs

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Okay… we finally made it to the 2021 playoffs and the top sixteen were set last weekend. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are still without wins as they move into the playoffs along with Tyler Reddick in the same boat. All of the others qualified in the top sixteen have at least one win. Of course, that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans as they start the playoffs at one of the most challenging tracks on the NASCAR circuit, Darlington Raceway. Other than playoff points, everyone of them have the same chance at making it to the next round. Well, that is until the end of these first three races.

I suppose there is the possibility that both Harvick and Hamlin could each win in these first three races and the same goes for Tyler Reddick. If that does happen, they would be qualified for the round of twelve and it’s anybody’s guess which of the sixteen wouldn’t move on. That’s what makes these first three races so interesting to this fan. Of course, I could say the same about the six after that. There is just no way of predicting which of the drivers will make it to the final four.

Yeah, I know no one really wants to hear any predictions at this early stage of the playoffs but, I also know many have already decided which of the sixteen will be in the final four. Personally, I have no idea which ones will actually make it to the final four. I know which ones I would like to see make it but, there are too many variables to even offer a guess at this point. I get a kick out of the ones that do make predictions at the outset of this first race. I don’t hold any of them to their predictions but I do still get a kick out of it.

Taking a look at the sixteen qualifiers shows that all four of the Hendrick teams are in along with all four of the Gibbs teams, all three Penske teams and two Stewart-Haas teams. The other three are individual team reps from CGR, RCR and Front Row Motorsports. Any way you look at it, that sets up some interesting possibilities moving forward through the three rounds to the final four.

Some have already floated the idea that there could be a final four made up of just the Gibbs Toyotas. Although I don’t think that will be the case, it is an interesting situation. The Gibbs teams have shown themselves to be much improved over the last number of races and it is quite possible some or all of them end up in the final four. Of course, that is at least nine races away at this present time but, nothing is out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to the way this 2021 NASCAR season has gone.

One thing that sticks in my mind along with many others is the question of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson both taking it all the way to the final four and battling it out for the 2021 Season Championship. It wouldn’t surprise me if that would be one of the possibilities but, I’m not so sure it will be that simple for either one of them. If it goes the way some hope, someone at JGR will have to miss the final four for Larson to be there.

The same goes for the Hendrick Chevys. Some have offered the possibility of all four of the Hendrick teams making it to the final four. No matter how appealing that may sound, I’m not one that thinks that really is in the realm of likelihood. Even though I am, admittedly, a Hendrick fan, I just don’t know that they have that much of an advantage over the rest of the competitors. I do admit it could happen but I just don’t think it will. Besides, if Denny and Kyle are to battle it out, a Hendrick team will miss the final four.

Look… There are way to many possible situations to consider without even the first race being run and there are a lot of reasons they call Darlington Raceway, “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” I think a lot of questions will be silenced after we all see how these first couple of races go. I will even go so far as to say, it may take more than a couple of races or so to even begin thinking of how it will end up. One thing is certain, however. These next ten weeks could prove to be some of the most dramatic and stressful races we’ve seen all season. I don’t expect any of the top sixteen drivers to hold anything back and you know what that means. Yep, that means the racing is going to be aggressive and anything can, and probably will happen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 5, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Pressure Is On At Daytona

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The race tonight at Daytona is the final race of the regular season and there are two very important things going on… (Well, that is if it doesn’t rain and then all bets are off. Then it probably moves to Sunday afternoon and all the conditions could be different.)

The first thing of importance is which of the remining drivers that aren’t already qualified for the first round of the playoffs will fill that sixteenth spot. Since this is Daytona, we all know anything can happen and just about anyone that starts the race has a chance of winning it. That means there might be a completely unexpected driver making the playoffs and a couple of someones trying to point their way in – Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick – just might miss because there is an unexpected winner. Yeah, I know the chances of that happening are slim but, that possibility is there and it can’t be ignored.

So, there are actually a couple of battles going on in that first important thing. That would be the battle between Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick and they just happen to be teammates. It has been a tight battle between them for several weeks now and it remains to be seen which of them will out-point the other or which of them might come out the winner of this 400-mile race. Now, I’m not picking one of them over the other, especially considering how things have gone for them over the last couple of weeks in particular but, it could go either way.

The second important thing about this race is the battle between Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin for the Regular Season Championship. At one time not so long ago in this season, many had already given it to Denny. Admittedly, he did start off the season with very consistent finishes but no wins. It did appear he was going to be the Regular Season Champ without much doubt. But then, as usually happens in the NASCAR Cup series, someone named Kyle Larson began a string of top one and two place finishes, and soon, he had caught up to Denny, passed him and now he sits at the top of the chart for the season championship by 28 points over Denny Hamlin.

That, in itself, makes this race very important for these two and for tonight (or tomorrow if need be) adds an extra bit of drama to the whole thing. Unless something drastic happens to one or both of them, we likely won’t know the name of the Regular Season Champ until the checkered flag falls. Taking into the account how these two run at Daytona, it is anyone’s guess how this might turn out. Admittedly, since I am both a Chevy fan and a Hendrick fan, you know which one I am pulling for more than the other but, I’m at a loss as to how it will turn out. If Denny wins, he would gain playoff points and likely take the take the Regular Season Championship, too. If Kyle wins… well you already know what that means. Yep, he goes into the playoffs as Season Champ and with a lot of momentum.

So, if you think those are the only two storylines that will be going on, I beg to differ with you. Although locked into the playoffs, Kevin Harvick joins Denny Hamlin as in by points but no win so far this season. There probably wasn’t anyone that expected that to be a result in this season after the way they both performed last season. It is a relative shock that both of these guys have had what could be called a lack-luster season. I don’t think anyone expected either of them to not have even one win at this point in the season but, the facts are before us. Neither of them have a win and, if there had been a couple of more winners this season, neither of them would likely be in the playoffs.

From this fan’s view, there are a lot of things that will be going on when they take to the track for this one and a lot of possibilities of how this one race could change things all around. There are those in the playoffs that want another win or, at least, a really good finish. First, the winner will have to make it to the final checkered flag ahead of all the rest and will have to have survived any of the usual “big ones” this race usually generates. I am sure there will be at least one “big one” and possibly more. Or, it could be we actually have one of these races at a super speedway like Daytona with no “big one” and only minor problems for most, if not all of the contenders.

I don’t know about you but, I’m anxious to get this race going and then into the books. I don’t want to wait any longer to know how the Top Sixteen rounds out and whether or not Denny Hamlin or Kyle Larson is crowned the Regular Season Champ. No matter which of the drivers wins, one of these two will be the Regular Season Champ and then we get to move on to the playoffs. Wow! Just think about that… only ten weeks to go…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 28, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Michigan Means Two To Go To Make The Playoffs

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Ok… so last weekend turned out to be… well… I guess I could say, interesting. I think that would be an understatement at best but, I really don’t know any other way to express it. Not much changed in the top sixteen and it is still a tight battle for those last two spots. Since this weekend is at Michigan International Speedway, that means this race and the one next weekend at Daytona are all the chances anyone has to make it into the top sixteen either by points or wins. If someone other than one of the expected and previous 2021 season winners takes this one, it could really make next weekend at Daytona even more pressure packed than it already will be.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick still have no wins this season and both of them would love to have a win this weekend and have no worries heading into Daytona next weekend. In fact, just about everyone presently in the top sixteen would like to not have to worry about anything going to Daytona. That’s one reason why I think this race at MIS is going to be one for the books, especially for those that are not already locked into the playoffs.

Denny Hamlin almost stole the victory last weekend at Indy and would have solidified his spot in the playoffs and probably made it even more interesting for the 2021 season championship battle he is in with Kyle Larson. At the present, he is behind in that battle and needs a win or a really great points day compared to Kyle Larson Sunday afternoon. Denny is 22 points behind Larson and really needs something spectacular to happen to get back in the hunt for the 2021 season championship. If he wins it makes the battle even tighter between the two. If he scores a lot of points compared to Larson, it also makes the battle even tighter. If he has a bad day compared to Larson, it would make next weekend at Daytona one of his most important races of the 2021 season.

Kevin Harvick is in the playoffs as it stands right now but he still has no wins on the season and really hasn’t performed all that bad this season. He is one of the drivers that has a very good record at MIS and is one that could pull off the victory this weekend. The Stewart-Haas teams have struggled a bit this season and his number four team is no different. Even though he has run well, he hasn’t really been in the hunt at the end of a race. That’s not to say he hasn’t been running good it’s just to say he hasn’t been running good enough. When it comes down to it, a win this weekend could be just the shot in the arm he and his team need to go into the playoffs with more confidence to be more than an also-ran in the playoffs.

The Penske teams have been having their own set of problems this season and Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have each had lower than expected results. Yes, they both have wins and are guaranteed to be in the playoffs but, they have not shown the usual strength entering into the playoffs as in past years. From my view, the Fords usually perform pretty well at MIS and this weekend might be their time to shine. Still, there Hendrick Chevys and the Gibbs Toyotas might have something to say about that.

Speaking of the Gibbs Toyotas, this is another race that I just can’t ignore two things. I’ve already talked about Denny Hamlin and his situation but, Kyle Bush and Martin Truex Jr. could make waves when all is said and done Sunday afternoon. The Toyotas have run strong in recent weeks but have also had their share of troubles. I’ve mentioned in the past that Kyle seems to run better when they have practice and this weekend isn’t one of those. Michigan isn’t a track the teams haven’t seen before so it might not be the same as it appears to this fan. Either one of these drivers could win and there is something to be said for momentum heading into the playoffs even with Daytona happening the week before.

Gee, I almost forgot to mention the battle between teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon. Both have been battling for the final playoff spot for several weeks now. For the moment, Reddick holds the edge by twenty-eight points but that could change this weekend. You know how it goes. If something happens to one or the other causing a DNF, the whole picture could change. If Austin wins, which he very well could, that would knock Tyler out and mean he would have to win at Daytona. Wow, can you even imagine the pressure these two teammates must be feeling. If someone unexpected wins, that could change the whole picture for both of them going into next weekend.

The Hendrick teams have been running very strong and are somewhat favored by many to win this one. It is true, they have been showing a lot of consistency and, really, all four have been running strong. From this fan’s view, the only thing standing in the way of a Hendrick team winning this weekend is that the package all teams are running this weekend is the weaker package, performance-wise, for HMS. Look, I’m not saying they don’t have a chance, I’m just saying the odds are a little better for the other teams to run with them. Of course, Kyle Larson is one of those HMS teams and, well, you know how he has been running this season…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 21, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

After Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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After Martinsville many of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams welcomed the week off and hoped to re-group or get a fresh start when things pick back up in Texas this weekend. The short track in Virginia claimed a few victims and some that were expected to do well, didn’t. Even though he started out strong, Kevin Harvick struggled for most of the day and his team-mates didn’t fair much better. To say the RCR teams underperformed may be a little dramatic but it is true and the week off was hopefully beneficial to them.

Martinsville turned out to be a rough day for most of the Hendrick teams, too and they didn’t come away with number 200 for their boss, Rick Hendrick. Jeff Gordon dominated the day but he didn’t end up in Victory Lane. Jimmie Johnson came from the middle of the pack and worked his way near the front, was clocked speeding on pit lane and put at the end of the longest line. He proceeded to move back to the front and was leading on lap #496, but he didn’t go to Victory Lane either. As for pole-sitter, Kasey Kahne well… it was just another typical day for him in the year 2012 and he didn’t even finish the race. Now, Dale Jr… well he had a pretty decent finish and is now second in the points.

To say Martinsville had a surprise ending would be more than a little bit of an understatement…

From this fan’s view (and looking at the race with six laps to go) it looked as if there was going to be a real shootout between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and no matter how it turned out between the two, Hendrick Motorsports was going to come away with its 200th victory in Cup. All of that went out the window with the throwing of the yellow flag with about three laps to go. The caution was exactly what Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson did not need, or want, to see.

I know it has been analyzed and talked about and analyzed again, but I just have to put in my two cents from this fan’s view. It is very obvious that the yellow flag could have been avoided and probably was a bad decision by David Reutimann and his team to try and continue but it is just one of the beasts that has reared its ugly head because of the top 35 rule. Reutimann admitted the only reason he was still on the track was because he was trying to stay in the top thirty five in points. We all know how it affected the outcome of the race and we all know how badly Reutimann felt about having changed the outcome of the race. What doesn’t seem to be very clear (at least to this fan) is how that situation can be completely avoided in the future.

Had it not been for the top thirty five qualifying rule, he wouldn’t have had to make that decision at all. As it is, it is a decision that affects how all of the teams struggling to stay in the top thirty five think about how to get as many points as they can. As anyone will tell you, especially in NASCAR Cup, it is a whole lot easier to get and keep sponsors interested in you if you are guaranteed to be in the race.

That is what the top thirty five rule does and this is not the first time it has been brought up in the last several years. As this fan remembers, the last time it was really questioned was when teams were making the races even though there were cars that had faster qualifying times but weren’t in the top thirty five so the slower cars made the race. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the rule, but I am saying it does affect the racing week in and week out and as it stands, everyone knows about and has to deal with the top thirty five rule whether good or bad.

From what I can tell, the time it becomes most important to anyone is when it affects them in a negative way. (In other words, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone other than those outside the top thirty five, it isn’t even on the radar of the others. When it does affect the others… well… you know…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 11, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Sonoma from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanI guess I’m a little different than some NASCAR fans. I like it when they hit the road courses and I like road racing, especially when it is done with 3400 lb stock cars. There’s just something about watching those heavy Toyotas, Fords, Dodges and Chevys lumber through the many turns, (both left and right), see who can traverse them consistently fast and move toward the front no matter where they start. (I have to admit, it is also fun to see how quickly the patience and tempers grow short and the bumping, banging and complaining start. In recent years, the road courses have become much more like the short tracks when it comes down to that.)

It is interesting to me to see how the drivers have adapted to the road courses in recent years and how much better many of them have become at them. Not that many years ago, many of them just showed up and suffered through them or had some “road course ringer” take their place. Often the “ringer” didn’t fair all that well, (which many attributed to the fact they didn’t get to spend much time with the crews and get their cars feeling right for them) and the regular Cup drivers that worked on their road course abilities ended up winning. These days many more have worked on their road racing skills and even though they may not be good enough to win, they are much more competitive than they used to be.

I am one of those that thinks NASCAR should eliminate one of the ovals during The Chase and add a road course to it. I really think it would make for an even more interesting Chase and add even more drama to an already outstanding format. It’s not because I think what they do for the Chase right now isn’t good, I just think it would add another dimension to the Chase format. I realize there are logistic and weather situations that may be different that late in the season, but I do think it would be an interesting addition to the races for the Championship.

So now, I guess you’re going to ask me if I have a favorite driver when it comes to the road races. Well, of course I do… don’t you? I do have to admit, as I have grown older along with the sport and in particular since I started writing about it, I have become much more appreciative of all of the drivers. I still have ones I like to see win but I also like to see others win. (Of course there are still a few I just don’t pull for at all.)

Although there are many good road course drivers in NASCAR, I think some of the Cup regulars that stand out a little more than the others are Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson and Juan Montoya (and believe me, that’s isn’t in any particular order.) It remains to be seen how others like AJ Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and the Bush brothers do. All of them are very capable road coursers and it wouldn’t surprise this fan at all if any one of them ends up taking the checkers Sunday afternoon. In fact, it is very possible just abgout anyone in the field could take a trip to Victory Lane this weekend; it is just that competitive in Sprint Cup at road courses these days.

I think the only thing I hope doesn’t happen this weekend is that the race in some ways becomes more of a time for paybacks and less of a time for showing just how good a road racer a driver can be. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be a little pushin’ and shovin’ or beatin’ and bangin’; (we all know the cars can take it). From this fan’s view, the thing that makes road racing interesting is watching the drivers set up for the passes, out brake (or out fox) the other driver, take away his line and drive right on by. I have absolutely nothing against being aggressive, but I would much rather see real racing as I would bumper cars any day, (that’s what makes racing, well, racing in my book.)

Like so many others, I like Boris Said and over the the years I have always liked Boris Said. Am I a “Said Head” and do I wear a wig on the days he races? No, but I do have an enormous amount of respect for him and what he brings to NASCAR. Not discounting his abilities at all, but more than anything, I just really like his attitude. He is a racer through and through and it shows. Listening to him be interviewed is one of the most positive times a fan can experience. He is truly thankful for any and all opportunities he gets and, to be honest, he is one, (although not the only one) I would really like to see win this coming Sunday afternoon…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 25, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Kansas From A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASCAR at Charlotte From A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 28, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR All-Star After Thoughts From A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 24, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR’s All-Star Weekend from A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASCAR at Dover from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanWell, NASCAR Cup qualifying was rained out for this weekend and that should make the race at the Monster Mile even more interesting than it might have been, at least in the beginning. For some it will be an unexpected advantage and for others, it will be a definite disadvantage.

Well, that was easy enough to say but I’m not so sure it makes a lot of sense, that is, unless we look at the way the lineup will be for tomorrow’s race. For the first time since NASCAR changed the procedure for line-ups in case of rain-outs, this weekend they will line-up according to the speeds they put up in practice. I find it a much more interesting way of starting the race than going by the old way which was based on owner points (and a few other things, which only made it more complicated than it needed to be.)

The good thing about the change is it doesn’t give an advantage to someone who has accumulated a good point’s standing, but shows up to the track on a qualifying rain-out weekend with a bad setup, and the rain-out just makes their starting position a gift. Of course it remains to be seen how this will work out, but it does seem a bit more fair to all involved, (except those of the go or go homers that may have been able to out qualify some of the others.) I think it is a little too early to pass judgment on the procedure at this point, though, but it does appear to be an improvement, at least from my view.

So, I don’t know how you saw it, but it looked to me that some were definitely struggling with getting their cars to hook up the way they wanted. I hate to keep bringing up this name, but Jeff Gordon knocked off some faster laps early in the first practice session but it did appear he struggled from that point on. That may or may not mean anything when it comes down to race time, but even with his success at the track in the past, it may not be a good weekend for him. (Gee, now that I’ve said that, one has to wonder if he and Alan Gustafson didn’t just decide to turn it into a test session. I guess that is a possibility since he usually does perform fairly well at the Monster.) Aw, heck, for that matter it also looked like Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin were having trouble finding good speed, too, (just so you won’t think I’m just picking on Jeff Gordon…)

That brings us back to the actual starting order for Sunday afternoon. Many will be happy to see Dale Jr starting in third, which is a plus for him (and his fans) no matter how you look at it. (Well, that is unless he quickly drops like a rock to the back of the field after the race starts.)

The Bush brothers are starting sixth and seventh and that may mean they will be at the front before too long, especially Kyle who is looking for another good finish as he has fairly well tamed the Monster in the recent past. When it comes to brother Kurt, I’m not so sure. He has looked good in practice at other times this season only to end up well in the middle to back of the pack at the end of the race.

AJ Almendinger and Jimmie Johnson will be starting on the front row and with the way Jimmie’s stats look for Dover, that may not bode well for the rest of the field. Based on those stats in recent history, he looks like he may be the one to beat, (but his year has been a little up and down, although not at the end of a race that much.) As for AJ, I know he is thrilled to be starting outside pole and I’d be willing to bet he will try and make the most of his starting position.

Lurking right there near the front of the line-up are three other guys, hungry for a victory. That would be Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex, Jr. Although starting up front doesn’t necessarily translate into finishing up front, with the luck these three have been having this year, any one of them just might be due to take the trip to Victory Lane by the time the race is over, (and wouldn’t that be interesting if one of them did?)

According to some, there are those that are thinking there may still be some action going on between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Bush this weekend, but from this fan’s view, I just don’t see it. They both sort of blew it off last weekend and I’m thinking with the way NASCAR will be keeping an eye on them, they will probably have enough to think about just trying to tame the Monster Mile and not draw too much attention to themselves in the eyes of the NASCAR officials…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 14, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty NormanRichmond is a short track… Richmond is a fast track… Richmond is a track that all the drivers love to race on, (well, at least most of them do), and taking all those things into account, that should make for one heck of a race tonight.

One thing I find interesting as a fan is how little we’ve actually heard about Kyle Bush this weekend and how much we’ve heard about Denny Hamlin. Although they both have wins over the last couple of seasons at this track and both usually are thought of as contenders every time NASCAR races at Richmond, Denny Hamlin has already won at RIR this weekend… twice.

Some of you may be asking why that is important and that is a very good question. From my view, usually when we come to a track with multiple series races on a weekend, the name we most often hear talked about for possibly sweeping the weekend is Kyle Bush. This weekend it is Denny Hamlin and he has actually had a very good weekend so far by winning the special late model race on Thursday night and the Nationwide race last night. Compared to the rest of the first part of this season, that is a very good start to the weekend for him.

One of the biggest reasons I bring this up is that he has had such a miserable year in 2011 after almost winning the Championship in 2010. Both he and Joey Logano have struggled in this first third of the season and it looks like the week off last week was good for both of them. It appears that Joe Gibbs Racing has shown up so far this weekend with a little momentum flowing in their direction, at least for Hamlin and Logano. Yeah, I know you can’t put a lot of stock in the performances outside of Cup, but at least in the Hamlin camp, they definitely seem to be encouraged by the events so far.

So now I guess you’re asking the question if I think Denny Hamlin is going to dominate the Cup race tonight the way he did the Nationwide race last night? Well that’s a good question and as fans we all know it is a possibility but we also know this is NASCAR and Cup races don’t always go the way the rest of the weekend does.

From this fan’s view, I see a lot of possibilities for the race tonight. Unless someone just shows up with the field covered since practice and qualifying, (which I admit is always a possibility), I’m expecting several drivers to make themselves contenders for the checkers by the end of the night. I just don’t see a race with one dominant car for the night. Although I could be proved wrong, the lap times are just too close and it appears the top teams have more than one driver with a chance for taking the victory tonight.

As far as the way the qualifying went, there are seven Chevys, three Toyotas, a Dodge and a Ford in the top twelve. Now this is just my view, but that says to me the Chevys in particular might have something to say about whether or not Denny Hamlin sweeps the weekend. It is my guess, Juan Montoya and Regan Smith would like to cash in on their qualifying performances along with Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon.

Two names that stand out in those six are Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin. They both usually end up near the front often at RIR and Jeff Gordon in particular has been running at, or near, the front more often than not at the end of the races in the last several trips to Richmond. In fact, he is often found at the front when it comes time to go for the checkered flag late in the race and I expect him to be a factor in tonight’s race.

There are those of the opinion, Dale Jr could end up in Victory Lane tonight and this fan thinks that is a definite possibility. My biggest problem with that happening is I just don’t see the confidence there when Jr is asked how he will do. Now don’t go off thinking that is a criticism because it isn’t, it’s just that I don’t think he has the confidence to overcome whatever comes at him to win over the adversities he may face in the race… at least, not yet. He is looking better all the time and it is obvious, Steve Letarte is having a positive influence on him. It is my opinion he is going to win soon, I just don’t know that it is going to be tonight.

One other thing that just jumps out at me from the qualifying speeds is there is only a little over a tenth of a second separating the top twelve spots and a little over two tenths separating the top twenty four qualifiers. If that doesn’t give some idea as to how the race could go tonight, well, I just don’t know… I guess that’s why they call it NASCAR Cup racing… you just never know.

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© April 30, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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