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NASCAR at Fontana from Just A Fan’s View

Rusty NormanIf you only looked at the qualifying times and the way the cars will line up on Sunday afternoon at Fontana, you would see some different names at the top of the order and a lot of well known big names in the middle to the back of the field. Now as surprising as this will sound, this is one of the times the qualifying will be totally useless except for having a better pit stall than someone else. The reason, as this fan sees it, is because of the rains that fell in California on Friday, before the practice and qualifying sessions.

You can tell by the looks of the lineup some teams hit it and some didn’t. That’s not to say the ones that qualified faster than the better known names don’t deserve to be where they are, I just raise the question of whether or not it will make a great deal of difference on Sunday.

Just look at where two of the top three finishers from last week’s race qualified. Carl Edwards finished second last weekend and qualified eighteenth this weekend. Jimmie Johnson finished third last weekend and qualified sixteenth for Fontana. Of course last week’s winner, Kyle Bush, qualified eighth but he would say qualifying is just something they have to do and not to pay much attention to it, (and you already know what I think of qualifying.)

Looking at the speeds after the final practice session on Saturday it should be a little easier to tell a little more about how the competition will fair on Sunday, but the way the season has been going, I’m not so sure that will be the case.

While we’re talking about qualifying, I guess now is a good time to mention how NASCAR’s change to how qualifying order is established. From this fan’s view, the new way of setting that order and it does make the teams try to get better established times during practice. Usually qualifying later in the session is the best time to try and get a faster time. Although that isn’t always the case, it has proven to be one of the better rule or procedural changes and makes qualifying much more interesting. I wasn’t sure about it when they first mentioned it but now, I like it. Say what you will, but NASCAR has been making a lot of good decisions over the last couple of years and it has been a definite plus for the competitive side.

Since this is the fifth week of racing for 2011, that means that next week the field will be set a bit differently than it is during these first five weeks. For those that end up no longer in the top 35 after this weekend, they will have to qualify on time for the most part. For some, that will something they haven’t had to do in a while. There is no one in jeopardy of having to do that right at the moment, but all it takes is one more bad race and some of those on the edge will be in that predicament. Some that are close to the edge are, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano who are 29th and 30th in the points.

As I have observed the different drivers and teams this weekend, it does appear several are struggling with their setups and although it doesn’t appear they will do well, they will very likely find a way to get up towards the front. Although I don’t know who might win, it is definitely another one of those weekends where one or more of the teams may hit on the right combination and just have to tweak on the car slightly to keep up with the changing track condition. From this fan’s view, I really think the winner will come from the top fifteen from the final practice; (Wow, I’m really sticking my neck out there, huh?) If you want me to be a bit more specific, this could actually be the week we see someone in Victory Lane that has never actually been there before in Cup.

Even though I don’t really want to outright pick a possible winner, I do have a few choices as to who might win. I wouldn’t count out Dale Jr although he was only about 18th in the late practice. Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Kyle Bush were all fast in that practice also, but, there was a lot of slippin’ and slidin’ goin’ on and a lot of drivers unhappy with their cars after practice was over.

Adding to all of the uneasiness, there is an interesting side note to overnight weather possibly dumping a half inch of rain or more and washing away all of the rubber from the track for the start of the race tomorrow. One thing is for certain; this has been a very interesting weekend for the teams and it looks as though the challenges aren’t going to let up until the end of the race.

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 26, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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Bristol After Thoughts from Just A Fans View

This will be short and to the point because there is really no reason to drag it out, although I do have a few questions about Bristol Motor Speedway and Kyle Bush. As expected, Kyle was the one to beat on Sunday afternoon, (at least at the end of the race), and he completed another sweep at the high-banked short track in Thunder Valley.

As many seasoned fans and veterans will tell you, there are times that a driver and his team hit on something at Bristol and it makes them hard to beat. It is obvious that Kyle loves the track and he is not the least bit intimidated by it. It seems more often than not, he can do no wrong and it is beginning to be a habit.

Let’s not forget, Kyle Bush isn’t the first one to win a lot at Bristol. In their day, Rusty Wallace and Darryl Waltrip also won a lot of races at the fast short track and more recently, so have Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon (just to mention two.) I do believe once a team hits on that confidence level of performance at a particular track, they are hard to beat for an extended period of time. That’s not to say they will win every time they go there, but it does mean they will be the one (or one of the ones) everyone considers the team to beat every time they show up to race there, no matter which series it is.

Why it happens is a mystery to some, but it is this fan’s opinion that once they hit on that special confidence about a track, no matter what happens to them, they are confident they can handle what ever situation may be thrown at them. For some reason, unknown to the teams that haven’t performed well at a particular track (like Bristol or others), it is easier for them to overcome adversity that tries to test their dominance at that particular track.

What is so different about Kyle Bush this year and why re so many talking about him in a different way. If you check back to last years articles here at “Just A Fan’s View”, I mentioned how I noticed Kyle Bush was maturing and changing. He has continued that “maturing process” into this year and it has been interesting to watch. As a fan, I have a theory about all of this and some of what I noticed is evident in others, also.

So, what are these magical “things” I’ve noticed all about? (Well… I am so glad someone finally asked me about that.)

There appears to be something about becoming a team owner that changes how drivers, especially high strung drivers, (uh, I mean, some would call them “highly competitive” drivers), look at their job when they have to answer directly to their sponsors. Just look at the obvious changes in Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and yes, Kyle Bush, too. There has been noticeable change in all three and much of that process started to become really obvious after they became team owners. (Well actually, in Tony Stewart’s case, I noticed a big change in his attitude when he bought Eldora Speedway and started his influence over it.)

In all three of these cases, a noticeable change in their maturity level became more obvious AFTER this change in their lives. Have I gathered statistics and can I prove it? Nope, but I do think from observing them closely in the times afterwards, it was a definite turning point in their maturity level. Is it coincidental? Maybe, but in any case, they have changed and, it is my personal opinion, becoming an owner of a team made a large difference. I am glad to see it and would also like to say I don’t see where it has made them any less competitive, but possibly even more so and even more likeable than they were when they were younger and, (if I may say it without offending them), less mature. (Oh, and by the way, I don’t think Kyle getting married in January hurt anything either. He is more confident, more in control of his emotions and generally, less out-of-control than in previous years.)

So what has this got to do with Kyle Bush winning Sunday afternoon at Bristol and sweeping the weekend again? Not a whole lot but it is my observation as a fan and made over a period of time and watching how these guys have changed in particular. Does that mean they have all of the sudden become perfect? No, but it definitely means they are even more of a force to be reckoned with at every race track and for those hard-to-come-by Sprint Cup Championships.

While we’re talking about marriage (and having kids) having an effect on drivers in the Cup series, has anyone noticed a change in Carl Edwards’ performance this year? I know you’re probably thinking, “So, big deal! It’s just a coincidence.” Well… you may be right, but what a coincidence…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 25, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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NASCAR Short Trackin’ at Bristol

Rusty NormanIt’s high-banked, a little over a half mile around and gets more emotions going than a cross-town rivalry. Oh, and one other thing — it’s fast! But, you already knew that about Bristol. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything NASCAR fans don’t know about the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” but there are a lot of unknowns about the race that will take place on Sunday afternoon.

The most important thing to remember about qualifying is the way the faster teams get to choose their pit stalls. Of course the way the track and pits are configured, pit stall choice is one of the more important details the teams will face if they expect to have a chance at having a good day on Sunday afternoon for 500 laps on the tough short track at Thunder Valley.

Of course, the way the trips to the pits during the race take place will make a big difference, too. If a stop takes place during green flag laps, it could mean finishing one or more laps down. During yellow is much more preferable, but the way the teams perform the stops will still make a big difference in how the teams maintain track position, (and track position is much more important at Bristol than some would lead you to believe.)

If you listen to the drivers talking to the crews and they are gaining spots on the track and losing them in the pits, you can bet the pit crews are going to be getting an ear-full, if for no other reason than the driver is frustrated, (and driver frustration is going to be noticeable all day no matter what at Bristol (it’s just the nature of the beast.)

So, does that mean anything at all about who will take the checkered flag? You can bet on it. Short track racing is high emotion and tense racing and a driver can only take so much of both simply because of the adrenaline flowing through his veins. And then there’s the closeness of the racing and the tendency they all have to lean on each other, which sometimes results in “paybacks.”

The first right side tire Goodyear brought for this race just didn’t work out the way they hoped and even though the teams did have a chance to put on the second choice in the second practice on Saturday, the jury is still out on how it will affect the final results when the checkered flag falls. Since the teams only had one set of tires to figure out how to make the second choice right side tire work, this fan isn’t so sure they will know a whole lot how it may do over the course of the whole race until they actually log the laps on Sunday.

In fact, (also in this fan’s opinion), I think this will prove to even up the field slightly and some that were running slower and further back in lap times will be more competitive. I know these are teams that have a lot of engineering input; but, I am of the opinion this is going to prove a challenge to them all. In other words, some will hit it and some won’t when it comes to changing the setup. From this fan’s view, my greatest concern from observing the last practice session, Saturday, is that we could see some problems with the right fronts on Sunday. I’m sure that may be a little bit of an over-reaction, but if it does come to pass, just remember I mentioned it.

It is firmly this fan’s opinion, this could prove to be one of the most interesting races at Bristol in a while. It is possible that everything will just go along as it would have originally, but I think it is going to be more of a challenge for all of the teams especially at a track where things happen in a hurry and it only takes an extended wiggle to go a lap down and have a good day turn into a bad one. (And then there’s that threat of rain to add intensity to the strategy for the race.)

Even though the Fords looked to be the fastest during the first part of the weekend, it remains to be seen if they make the transition to the different tire and remain as fast as they were up through qualifying. Carl Edwards has definitely been hot in the first part of the year just picking up from where he was at the end of last season. It is possible he could continue doing the same, but it is also possible he will struggle a bit, starting this weekend. I’m not trying to jinx him but he wouldn’t be the first one to have three good races at the beginning of the season and then struggle for several races during the spring.

With the change of the right side tire happening as it did, I can’t say who might win this weekend. It could be someone totally unexpected or it could be someone that hasn’t won in a while. Several names come to mind as possible winners for Sunday’s race. I’m not sure, but I think the Chevy’s are going to be much more competitive than they might have appeared before the tire change. Montoya looked strong and so did Mark Martin.

From this fan’s view, it looks as though Sunday’s race is anybody’s guess. In the last practice, the Fords weren’t even shown in the top ten for speed, but one has to wonder, were the higher speeds run on the old tire, or the replacement. It did look like Matt Kenseth was one of the better Fords in the late practice, but I’m not sure, he and the rest of the Fords just may show up at the front during Sunday’s race and all of this conjecture will be wasted.

Personally, I like the fact that we enter into race-day with all those unknowns I mentioned at the beginning. It just seems to set the stage for a great afternoon of racing and the drama that goes along with the unknown. I do expect the cream to rise to the top by the end of the afternoon and that means those that have proven they can overcome adversity with regularity will be running in the top five when the checkered flag falls. So hold on and get ready for the possibility of some whining to start, if… (and that’s a big if)… Jimmie Johnson ends up in Victory Lane. I’m sure NASCAR will be blamed for having Goodyear change the tire so he could win and move that much closer to going for number six in a row… (well… maybe not; the way people are talking, the winner will probably be Kyle Bush.)

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 19, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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Vegas 2011 After Thoughts from Just A Fan’s View

I’m not sure how you saw it but it looked like it was going to be another one of those days where the least likely make would end up taking the checkered flag, (and show us all just how little we know about how races are going to end.) I mean, if you look at the way the practices went before the actual race on Sunday, you would have never thought a Chevy would have lead the most laps. In fact, I would venture to say, you would have never thought they would lead any laps after the way they performed during the practice and qualifying sessions.

Instead… it looks like the Fords finally made it to the end of a race and ended up in Victory Lane on the same day (at least since Trevor Bayne and the Daytona 500). It really wasn’t a surprise to anyone as all the commentators, pundits and just about everyone, (including me), analyzed how the race would go judging from the practice and qualifying sessions before Sunday. I know I was swayed by how strong the Fords appeared and how the other teams seemed to be struggling, but Sunday proved to be different and Tony Stewart threw a wrench in the works until a late race mistake on pit road and a pit strategy to make up for that mistake that turned against him afterwards.

Even though Tony Stewart led the most laps, that hooked air hose and the decision to take two tires on the next to last last pit stop, cost him the victory and left him with a disappointing second place, even though he appeared to have the car to beat much of the afternoon. Needless to say, he was not at all happy after the race but did manage a pained interview immediately after the race and in the press center also.

Matt Kenseth on the other hand was fast in all the practice sessions and qualified on pole, (but as we mentioned in our article on Saturday before the race, Sunday doesn’t always go like the rest of the weekend), and he had a tire go down early in the race and ended up spending the most of the afternoon trying to get back onto the lead lap. He did manage to get back on the lead lap when Jeff Gordon’s right front went down and ended up with an eleventh place finish on the day.

Jeff smacked the wall hard, ending his day and leaving him on the trailer with a thirty-sixth place finish and very few points to go with it, kind of canceling out what he accomplished in Phoenix.

A quick look at the finishing order shows the times the teams spent on the track leading up to the race were just a bit deceptive. Just look at the difference between the way teams qualified and the way they finished; (to simplify things, I’ll just look at the top twelve qualifiers. I’m sure you know where to find them and the rest.) And remember, Fords filled up the first two rows…

Yes, it’s true… Fords did fill up the front two rows and Toyotas filled up the third row. In the next three rows there was one more Ford, one Toyota and four Chevys. Adding them all up tells us there were five Fords starting up front, four Chevys and three Toyotas. It makes it pretty obvious why many thought the Fords were going to do well on Sunday. As we found out, a Ford did actually win but the Chevys and Toyotas did much better than expected.

Honestly, I don’t feel bad about being wrong abut the strength of the Fords at Vegas and I hate to say it, but, it did look like a Chevy was going to take the win, possibly even finish one-two and have several more in the top twelve. It just goes to show what this fan has said many times; you can’t tell a whole lot from practice and qualifying, especially these days when NASCAR doesn’t have testing at the tracks they race at. That could mean some teams are spending some of their time at the tracks testing for the race and for the future.

NASCAR’s decision to change the points system has made the first three races of the 2011 season very interesting. If things continue to go as they have, we could see a whole new drama emerging from the way qualifying figures into future races. We just have two more races until the top thirty-five are no longer locked in from last year. Now, I know many of the teams are saying they’re not in panic mode yet, but some of the better known names from the past couple of years may have to actually qualify on time unless their luck gets better soon.

It appears to this fan, it is harder to make up the points lost in those bad finishes than it was in the past, even though early in the season points do shuffle around much faster than they do later in the season. I’m not really trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but, it should really prove to be interesting in the coming weeks for all of those that have been having some really bad races. Hey… I’m just sayin’, if some of them don’t start finishing more consistently toward the front, it could prove to be a very tense time for them.

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 11, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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NASCAR at Vegas from Just Fan’s View

Rusty NormanThis weekend in Las Vegas is going to be interesting to say the least; that is, if practice and qualifying reflect anything at all about how the race will go. The Fords are looking just as strong as they did last weekend in Phoenix and, from this fan’s view, I reckon it remains to be seen if they perform at the level they practiced and qualified at, (unlike what happened at Phoenix.)

It’s not that just the Roush Fords look strong, but, all of the Fords look like they have a few more horses hooked up to the track and could make the day miserable for the Chevys and Toyotas, (and, of course, those Penske Dodges, too.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not willing to put all of my cards on the table yet, but I do agree with many others, the Fords are going to be hard to beat unless something unexpected happens to them along the way. But wait a minute, didn’t many think exactly that way last week and isn’t this still NASCAR? Oh and an additional thought about that NASCAR thing; haven’t we been conditioned to expect the unexpected? (Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say.)

How about Marcos Ambrose qualifying outside pole next to Matt Kenseth? Has anyone wondered about the Richard Petty Motorsports teams besides me? They are looking better every weekend and I still think either Marcos or AJ will end up in Victory Lane sometime this season (or maybe both will and just maybe, more than once.)

The new points system has definitely put an interesting slant on the way things are shaking out so far after the first two races. Just look at where some of the Chasers from last season are right now. Some are definitely having a hard time adjusting to the smaller points allotments and the time it takes to move back up after a bad week. It is still to soon to tell how it will affect the overall way things wring out simply because things usually do get mixed up fairly regularly during the first few races of the season. One thing to keep in mind though, if people like Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton continue having bad weeks, they may just have to qualify on time after the first five weeks are over. That being said, it adds a bit of pressure to them, but it doesn’t mean they will be considered one of the “go or go homers.” Although, should something happen during qualifying runs after the first five races, it may make things very interesting. (Can anyone say David Ragan?)

Kyle Bush is at the number one position in points followed by his brother, Kurt, in the second position. AJ Almendinger is in fourth place, which not bad for RPM or AJ either. With Marcos also qualifying well and running well this weekend, I guess we’ll see how things go for them.

Personally, it wouldn’t bother me at all if Marcos Ambrose pulls off the unexpected and ends the day in Victory Lane. Not only would it be a good thing for him but also for Richard Petty Motorsports and I think they both would feel good about taking a trophy home. You can call me an old softy if you want but, I would like to see them have a good year. After what Richard Petty had to endure at the end of last year, it would definitely be another “Feel Good” moment on the 2011 season, (at least for me, and a few others I know.)

As far as the track at Vegas, it’s just not predictable. Just because somebody runs well on Friday and Saturday doesn’t mean they will have the same results on Sunday. The track just changes over the weekend and sometimes those changes are completely unexpected and have nothing obvious to do with weather or temperature. More than one team has gone into a Sunday race at Vegas with high hopes and come away disappointed just because they thought they had it figured out from practice and qualifying.

This weekend at Vegas is going to be another great weekend of racing in NASCAR Cup. I don’t know how you feel about it, but from this fan’s view, I expect to see a lot of action on the track and in the pits and I’ll be watching what happens on every one of those double file restarts throughout the day.

If they run the way they did in qualifying and practice, I just hope the Fords don’t make the race to boring… (that just doesn’t sound like Vegas to me… does it to you?)

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 05, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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A Look Back to Daytona and Ahead to Phoenix

Rusty NormanHi everyone and welcome to this extended edition of Just A Fan’s View…

NASCAR started off the season with a lot of positives. For the Cup teams, Sunday was definitely a historic day at Daytona and it is the NASCAR race many consider to be the biggest race of the year. In reality, it probably is the biggest race of the year and it was big in more ways than one. It was a race filled with drama and tension; a race with more than one “Big One” and for a while it looked as if there may only be a few cars running at the end. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case although the number actually in contention to win was somewhat reduced.

From this fan’s view, there couldn’t have been a more fitting end to the day than the story of the Wood brothers and their driver, Trevor Bayne. The Wood brothers are one of the oldest names in NASCAR and their driver is the youngest to ever win the Daytona 500. Absolutely no-one, including the driver himself, thought he had a chance to win it, but as is often the case at Daytona, he did it anyway.

I know you’ve probably heard this a hundred times in the last week, but, Sunday’s race at Daytona was only the second Cup start for Trevor Bayne and for him to win the 500 this soon in his career, well, it makes this fan wonder what the future may hold for him.

Since Trevor Bayne and the Woods brothers have occupied most of the media coverage over this last week, I don’t want to spend a whole lot more time on them and their success at the “Great American Race.” I would offer this little bit of information as food for you to think about over the next few days. Jeff Gordon was one of the first Cup drivers to notice something about Trevor and he was willing to hook up with him in the second Gatorade duel and it worked out well for the both of them, (until the end of the race, that is.)

Now, I don’t want to suggest anything, but, Jeff Gordon also noticed something about Jimmie Johnson and we all know where that has lead.

All in all, it was a rough day for some of the favorites at Daytona. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin all got caught up in a multi-car crash early on in the 500 along with many others. The only one of those three Hendrick teams that came out ahead on the day despite all that was Mark Martin. He at least finished on the lead lap while Gordon and Johnson finished many laps down in the last half of the field. (That was definitely not the way either of them wanted to start the year off.) Dale Jr. fared much better than the other three until near the end of the race when he had help nosing his car into the wall and that took him out of contention for winning in more ways than one on the day.

Along with the Hendrick teams and their troubles, the Richard Childress Teams of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton didn’t have a good day either as they both exited with engine troubles. Harvick was the first major player out and finished 42nd. With the new point system, it is a little harder to catch up from a really bad finish and he definitely will have his work cut out for himself over the next several weeks.

The Fords looked very strong on the weekend, (especially after the Chevys had their problems), and it remains to be seen if they will continue to run up front like they have lately. Carl Edwards finished second behind Trevor Bayne at Daytona and also won the last two races of the 2010 season. No matter how you look at that, it says Carl Edwards is looking strong in 2011 and, from this fan’s view, the Fords could be a dominating force all through this season.

Another driver/team to watch this season, at least from my view as a fan, would be Kurt Bush. He looked consistently strong at Daytona and sounds very confident in his car and team at the start of this season. He won two of the three Cup races he was in over Speed Weeks and was right there in position to win at the end of the 500. In my humble opinion, he is also one to watch as this season gets started and progresses.

Ok, Now let’s turn our attention to Phoenix International Raceway for this coming weekend.

There are a lot of questions going into the race this weekend. Probably the biggest one on most fans minds is whether or not Trevor Bayne can back up his winning performance in Daytona with a great performance in Phoenix. This is totally different from running a restrictor plate track and a lot can happen that may not be in his control.

If you’ve been one of the followers of Just A Fan’s View for any time at all, you already know how much I think of practice and qualifying, at least as far as the way the race may end up. I don’t think they tell us anything about how the race is going to go at all. What I do think they do is allow the teams a chance to test a few things at tracks they aren’t allowed to test at anymore, (according to the rules), and they can qualify for a good pit selection which could give them an advantage on race day. With the new rule NASCAR laid town about qualifying order being inversely related to practice speeds (or, slowest to fastest), we may see strategy even playing into the speeds we see during the practice times. (This is a wrinkle that should prove to be interesting and I reckon we’ll all have to have a wait and see attitude about it.)

Since this is the last race at PIR in its present configuration and on this track surface, I think some of the practices (and possible testing during them), has been for other reasons this year. They may be able to apply what they learn at PIR this weekend to other tracks, but when they return to PIR later this year, it will be basically a new track to the teams and that should really make for an interesting race late in the year.

No matter what the qualifying order turns out to be, this could be one of the more interesting races we’ve seen at Phoenix International Raceway in a while. I do expect to see some of the old faces to make a strong showing when it comes to the actual race, but Carl Edwards is probably in the catbird seat for two reasons:

  • First, he was the winner of the last race at Phoenix (even though it probably should have been won by Denny Hamlin) and
  • Second, he is driving a Ford (and they have been looking awfully strong, recently, when it comes to horsepower and finishing up front.)
  • A possible third reason would be he won the last two races of the 2010 season and finished second last weekend at Daytona.

Does that mean Carl Edwards is the choice for winning the Cup race this weekend? Nope… not at all. It just means he is on a roll and, if anyone is showing momentum so far, it would be him. (While I’m at it, I can’t ignore the fact that the rest of the Roush Fords are also looking very competitive on the weekend so far.)

Fords are just looking tough so far this year; (and you have no idea how hard that is for this Chevy fan to say that.) I raced Chevy’s, pulled my race-car trailer with one and still own one as I drive from place to place on a day to day basis. As a Chevy fan, I have to admit, it is about time the Fords have become more competitive against the Chevys and other brands, but I can’t deny the facts and that is the Chevys are still strong and have proved they can be as competitive as they need to be when it comes right down to it.

I don’t know about you, but from this fans view, I’m a bit undecided as to who will end up in Victory Lane this weekend. There is always the Hendrick Teams and all four of them are more than capable of doing so at Phoenix. I’m anxious to see how Dale Jr does with his new crew chief. He was doing well last weekend until he was taken out through no fault of his own.

Once again the Bush brothers both look like they could pull off a win this weekend and that could mean trouble for those that didn’t finish that well last weekend at Daytona. In fact, this could be another weekend that someone totally unexpected wins and it could be someone like Montoya or Ambrose. (I’m not saying they will, I’m just saying they could.)

Now that I’ve said all that, I have to say a number of cars are looking very good for taking the first spot this weekend. It could be a Ford, Toyota, Dodge or a Chevy. I do think it is likely the race is going to be decided by pit strategy and/or fuel mileage.

Uh, If you don’t believe me, just ask Denny Hamlin about that from the last race at PIR last year.

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© February 25, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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Two-Car Drafting at Daytona? – Get Used To It

Rusty NormanI know I’m not the first to say this this week, but as a fan, I do have add my two cents to the conversation like most of the rest of you. If you’re one of those fans that wants NASCAR to stay the way it was, you’re going to have to make an adjustment to your attitude or you’re just not going to be happy at all, especially this weekend.

In fact, I’ll go one step further than many… If you’re one of those that wants NASCAR to not make any more changes to the rules or the cars, you might as well find yourself a new sport because I just don’t think NASCAR is going to be something you want to watch anymore. I’m not trying to be mean or anything like that, it’s just that change is inevitable and fortunately for us fans, NASCAR doesn’t make changes just to be making changes and they don’t make changes knee-jerk style. When they do make changes, they make them to make the sport better or safer for all involved.

Personally, I was one of the first to have more than a few negative thoughts about this “two car tango” as they call it. I really wasn’t a fan of it at Talladega and I wasn’t so sure it was going to make racing at Daytona anything more than boring. Well, I don’t know how you feel about it, but, I do think my opinion has changed. It’s added a whole new element to restrictor plate racing. I never expected them to be able to push for so many laps. That in itself made it interesting and opened up a whole new can of worms. (By the way did you notice Michael Waltrip ran a lap of over 206 mph?) NASCAR did… (and they made changes by Monday)

Now I challenge you… Go ahead and think back to the Shootout for a minute. Admittedly, is wasn’t really all that interesting to begin with from this fans view and I think that can be attributed to the fact that the drivers were just really beginning to figure it out and who they trusted to run with. Once they did, the speeds picked up and the racing got better with every lap. Practice times showed even more improvement and then the Duels on Thursday showed what, in this fan’s opinion, was going to be the way the drivers had adjusted to the new way of racing at Daytona and it proved to be a very interesting afternoon.

There were just a few things I noticed and I’m sure others did, too.

  • First, the two car draft is not a choice anymore, it is a necessity; that is, if a driver wants to have any chance at all at being in contention.
  • Second, it doesn’t appear (at least at this time) they can lay back in the pack and wait until the end of the race to move to the front. This may be a good thing. My present opinion is it is going to make the race more exciting for the fans and more stressful for the drivers.
  • Third, it should prove to be interesting what happens on pit stops and if someone loses their drafting partner.

Now, not everything is positive for this new way of getting around the track at Daytona this year. One thing I noticed about the two car draft concerns the way they align themselves and the stability of the cars. When they are running at top speeds and the pushing car needs to breathe the radiator they move out to the right. That seems to work fine, but if the pushing car moves to far to the left, from my view it appears the front car loses traction on the left rear and becomes very loose. If they don’t catch it… well you know what that means.

In this fan’s opinion, I think this is going to be one of the most interesting restrictor plate races at Daytona in a long time. I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen with forty-three cars on the track doing the two car thing (and while were at it, doesn’t forty-three mean that someone is the odd man out right from the beginning?? That should prove to be interesting right form the get go.)

One other thing before I go. I think the intensity is going to be high throughout the race and the drivers are going to be more mentally stressed than ever in one of these restrictor plate races. They may be a bit physically tired when the racing’s done but mentally, they’re gonna be drained.

And one last thing, the Big One is very, very possible and I’m of the opinion there may be more than one. I do know this… this Daytona 500 is destined to be historic and I’m going to be watching every minute of it because I don’t want to miss anything… (Sure hope my Tivo can handle the pressure…)

Will this two car tango thing last? I’m not sure… as the track surface ages over the coming months and years, we may get back to the way things used to be, (but I doubt it.) For now, I’ll just say this… the two car draft at Daytona? Get used to it!!

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© February 19, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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Looking at NASCAR 2011… from Just A Fan’s View

Rusty NormanHello everyone… this is Russ and I’d like to welcome you back to Just A Fan’s View for 2011. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the coming season and I think it’s going to be the best year yet, at least for NASCAR (and Just A Fan’s View, too), and I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out. Of course you know we won’t be able to determine much until after the first few weeks of competition, but, like last year, this year has had some changes to the rules and to the way the cars look and I reckon both will have an impact on the year; but only time will tell how much that impact will be.

I’m not sure what your opinion is, but the consensus in my personal polling of friends and associates is mixed at best. The biggest discussions have been about the usual things, like who will win the Chase (and who they hope won’t win) and how the new rules may affect the racing. Personally, I don’t see much difference in the rules that made last year so competitive and what we have to look forward to for this year, but I think NASCAR fans across the nation are going to be pleasantly surprised with the way everything works out and with the level of competition across the board. Hey, as a NASCAR fan, you know as well as I do, competition has never been closer than it is right now.

I look for the Fords of both, the Jack Roush and Richard Petty camps, to make a statement early in the year this season, if for no other reason than the statement Carl Edwards made by winning the last two races of the season last year. I also think this will be the year NASCAR fans have to take a serious look at the capabilities of the Toyotas of Michael Waltrip Racing. I’m not sure how they will do on all the types of tracks, but I do think they could be a force on the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. (I’m sure David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr are thinking that way and are ready to make that statement a reality.)

So, does that mean Joe Gibbs Racing is going to be left out in the cold with their Toyotas? Not at all… they’ve proven themselves and their performance last year was very strong; I just think the whole field is going to be more competitive this year and it remains to be seen how the JGR teams will fair as the season progresses.

As a quick side-note… I guess you noticed I haven’t said much about the Childress or Hendrick teams yet. The reason for that is the improvement of the Childress teams was well documented for most of last season and I don’t expect much to change in the days ahead for them. I do think RCR is a force that is going to have to be reckoned with if someone else wants to win the Championship this year. I’m not saying too much, because things can change on the competitive front so quickly in NASCAR, but, I don’t expect there to be much difference over last year in the performance of the teams from RCR as the season gets started and progresses. In particular, I think Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer will be tough competitors from the get go, (and of course, there is that other guy named Jeff Burton. If he can catch a few breaks this year, he just may surprise all of us.)

The Hendrick camp is a whole different story… It is already a well know fact there was a major switch-up, (uh, some would call it a major shake-up) in the off-season and the jury is still out as to how it will affect the performance of the four teams. The team left basically intact was the #48 team of Jimmie Johnson. Although there were some organizational changes made to the way the pit crew is made up and will train, he still has Chad Knaus as his crew chief and they still reside at the same shop. As for the rest of the Hendrick teams, major changes, along with major expectations are the order of the day. I have to agree with what many others are saying… Dale Jr needs to have a good year and with his new crew chief, Steve Letarte, the hope is he will make a good showing throughout the season and make the Chase this year. I think we will know sooner than later how that’s going the shake out, but when it comes to whether or not 2011 is going to be a good year for him, barring the complete unforeseen, I do expect him to perform well and I think he will be somewhere near the front at the Daytona 500.

Personally, I’m still not convinced Jeff Gordon won’t be making a run for his fifth Championship this year, (although some say he doesn’t really have much of a chance, what with a new crew chief and moving the #24 to the same shop as the #5.) I think Allan Gustavson and he will make a good team and I expect he will be one of the forces to be reckoned with as the season nears Chase Time. I just don’t see how sharing the same garage with the likes of Mark Martin can be a bad thing for Jeff. Somehow, I do think moving away from the #48 will be a plus for Gordon. Sometimes being too close to your competition (as well as a car you’re part owner of) can be a bad thing. I look for Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin to make themselves known right from the start of the year. Although this is Mark’s last year with the #5 team at Hendrick, I don’t expect him to just lay down and exit quietly. I do think he’ll be someone we’ll be talking about often during this season. Although he is comfortable with his accomplishments throughout his NASCAR career, if he is in position to win the Cup Championship, rest assured, he will give all he’s got and won’t hold back anything.

There are a lot of unknowns that have to be considered for this coming season. I haven’t even talked about Tony Stewart or the Bush brothers and what’s going on with them on their respective teams and then there’s that other guy, Denny Hamlin. Do I think they will all be silent? Not at all, but they’re not at the top of my list when it comes to those I think are going make a lot of noise to start off the year, (at least, not in the first few races), but they are definitely on the list of those I expect to see putting pressure on the rest and who knows, it could be I’m dead wrong and they are the ones all of the others will be “Chasing.”

I’m also thinking this could be the year Marcos Ambrose and, yes, even AJ Almendinger, win their first races in the Cup series. It isn’t so far fetched to think that way because both made some good showings last year and I expect both of them to improve as the season progresses. I think it would be great to see both of them do well if for no other reason than it would be very good for Richard Petty Motorsports and make up for some of what Richard has put his name on the line for and what he had to put with at the end of last year.

I know there are those I haven’t mentioned that have a very good chance of making it to Victory Lane at least sometime in the first 26 races and some of them are veterans and some are relatively new to the Cup series. Will one of them take the Championship? Well, that’s an great question and I really don’t have an answer for it at the moment, but… time will tell (as they say.)

Hey, that’s my take of how the 2011 season will start out and you can bet, it’s Just A Fan’s View, but, “It’s as good as any and better than many!!!”

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© February 11, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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NASCAR at Homestead After Thoughts: Jimmie Johnson Wins His Fifth in a Row

Jimmie Johnson and the #48 Hendrick team made history again at the Homestead-Miami Speedway taking their fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. To all the naysayers and the ones that said he and the #48 were done, Jimmie, crew chief Chad Knaus and all of Hendrick Motorsports rose to the occasion, overcame all adversity and did exactly what they needed to do to win the coveted and unprecedented fifth consecutive title. It was a hard fought victory on a day that saw all three contenders for The Cup struggle through good and bad moments right down the final laps.

On the other hand, Carl Edwards seemed to have the field covered all day as he led 190 laps and took the trophy for the Ford 400 home with him. Of course, his dominance went basically unnoticed and hardly anyone paid much attention to his commanding performance as all eyes were focused on the drama taking place between the top three in the points race. Even his time and celebration in Victory Lane was just a precursor to the celebration of the #48 team.

From this fan’s view, I don’t think everybody understands just what has been happening (and, yeah, I know many are tired of hearing about the historic and commanding performance of the #48 Hendrick team and driver Jimmie Johnson over the last five seasons.) In a time when the competition has never been as close between teams as it is right now, this team has won five consecutive championship titles. If it was hard to do before, it is even harder to do now. Right now, is the most competitive time in NASCAR history and despite all the criticism, “black helicopter” stories and finger pointing, this team has stayed focused and done what no one else in NASCAR history has done to this point.

I have heard the rumblings of some fans that say the #48 team hasn’t really won the Championship (like “back in the day”) because of the way the Chase is set up; It appears they think they’ve only won the Chase. I have to admit to you, I haven’t looked at it that way and still don’t.

(I guess this is the place where I go into a slight rant, because I really don’t understand some people and their thinking process.) From my view, the #48 team has performed well during the seasons in question and in the Chases those years, too. This year in particular was what many asked for (in one way or another) and that was a Chase that wasn’t a blowout by Jimmie Johnson. I guess my questions to those I just mentioned is this, “Did Jimmie Johnson make it into the Chase in those years and the others and was there a time when he didn’t win?”

Okay, so do I think there are changes that could be made to the Chase format that could make it even better and still have one like we had this year? You bet I do, but no one can argue with this years result, (in fact, I even wrote about it in a previous post.) If you’re reading, this you can >> CLICK HERE << to go to that article (and to the ones that are just listening to the blog/cast… well… you need to visit the site and read about it… or, you can read one of the articles I have planned for the off-season; that should bring you up to date on my thoughts on the matter and I’ll be just a little bit more thorough.)

Personally, I think this year, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and every person at Hendrick Motorsports has shown just how human they are and how willing they are to keep on plugging away no matter what the circumstances and how much legitimate (and of course, illegitimate) criticism they receive for accomplishing what they have and for setting the bar so high.

So the question HAS been answered about the #48 team and whether or not they could actually run to win when they had to. They proved in Homestead they could take the hands they were dealt and still come out on top. Will it happen again? Hey, I’m not even going to go there (there’s already enough people out there talking about that.) From this fan’s view, I’m just going to wait and see what happens…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 24, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com)

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NASCAR at Homestead: No Matter What Happens, One Will Leave The Champion

Rusty NormanOne thing is certain for the last Chase race for 2010, no matter what happens in the race this weekend, one of the top three will walk away as the Sprint Cup Champion for the  2010 NASCAR season. It doesn’t really matter if any of the three wins the race, because they’re racing each other and not the rest of the field. All any of the three have to do is finish better than two of the others by a certain amount and the one that does, wins the championship. It is a fitting end to a racing season that many consider to be the best ever in NASCAR history and I can’t say I disagree.

From this fan’s view, I really do think the 2010 season has been one of the best I can remember and I’ve been a NASCAR fan since the 60’s. Sure, there were moments during the year the racing seemed a bit humdrum and boring, but overall, every race had some kind of excitement and drama that capped off every week with a desire to see what would happen the next week. Whether it was the result of previous rule changes like the double file restart, up to three green-white-checker finishes or the statement from NASCAR at the beginning of the year that said, “Boys, have at it…” I’m not sure. All I know is this has been a different year for NASCAR and its fans than many previous ones.

We have all been inundated over the last week with the closeness of the points between the top three, but contrary to popular opinion there is a pretty darn close race going on in the rest of the pack of twelve, too.

A quick look at the 9th to 12th positions shows a couple of things. Probably one of the most surprising things I notice is Clint Bowyer isn’t in 12th; Jeff Burton is and that is despite the penalties Bowyer was assessed after the first race in the Chase along with a poor performance in the second race. I have to say that is one thing I didn’t expect to see.

Next is the points spread between Kurt Bush and Clint Bowyer. Kurt is only 5 points ahead of Clint and depending on what happens Sunday, one of the two could move up or down a spot. I really don’t think Tony Stewart will move backwards from 9th with the separation of 41 and 46 points between him and the other two, (although, stranger things have happened), but he is only 39 points behind Greg Biffle.

Now that is where is does start to get interesting, (if we ignore the top three for just a few more moments.) There is only 2 points separating Greg Biffle and Kyle Bush for the 7th spot, just 11 separating him and Jeff Gordon (in 6th) and a mere 38 separating him and his teammate, Matt Kenseth who is in 5th. (Aw heck, let’s go ahead and include Carl Edwards in the conversation for a moment, too.) Although he leads Biffle by only 85 points, I think he is most likely going to finish just where he is in 4th spot.

Aside from the major story of the top three competing for the Championship, from this fan’s view, the order of the top twelve (including those top three) could be shaken up in a major way Sunday afternoon in the Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Still avoiding the major story of the top three for at least one more minute, (which is all we’ve heard all week long from every possible angle and source), one of the things I find most interesting for this weekend is what will happen IF, (and that’s a mighty big if), AJ Allmendinger wins the race. AJ has been qualifying fairly well over the last several weeks, but has been unable to back it up with performance in the race. If he does actually pull off the win, 43 fans will win a new Ford. (Now I know there will be quite a few fans that will be watching where he is running a lot more than those other guys running for the Championship.)

Well, as I said to start this off with, it doesn’t really matter who wins the race this weekend. This Sunday’s race could be won by someone in the top twelve or it could be won by one of the other thirty-one drivers. It could even be pole-sitter, Kasey Kahne, pulling into Victory Lane to claim the trophy for the Ford 400, (who has had his share of adversity in the last month), and it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise to me.

There are those that threaten to stop following NASCAR if Jimmie Johnson wins his fifth straight Cup Championship. To them I say a very quiet and hardly noticeable, “goodbye.” No matter how much you think you will be missed, believe me, you won’t be missed near as much as you think you will. As fans, we all hope you reconsider, but you have to do what you have to do. I will say this… if Jimmie Johnson and the #48 Hendrick team do win the championship on Sunday, they deserve it and no one, absolutely no one, can deny they worked for it. It wasn’t handed to them on a silver platter and no one moved out of the way so they could make history again.

When all is said and done at the end of the race on Sunday afternoon, either Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick will leave the track as the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. To those ends I say, “Have at it boys!”

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 20, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com)

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NASCAR at Phoenix After Thoughts: It Just Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

Denny Hamlin not only led the Cup race at Phoenix and the most laps, looked like he was going to have a big points day over Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick and then… had to pit for fuel. Yes, it looked like Denny would be traveling to Homestead with the other two having hardly a chance at catching him in points, but… yeah, that’s right… he had to pit for fuel. He literally dominated the race in Phoenix, was biding his time until the checkered flag would fall and then… Carl Edwards passed him with 46 laps to go and he… (yep, you got it)… had to pit for fuel. According to the way the day was going, he was just the first of many that should have had to pit for fuel and possibly tires on the last long green flag run of the day and, as the checkers fell, he was the one left out in the cold finishing twelfth while his closest competitors in the Chase finished 5th and 6th without a pit stop.

Yeah, for a day that looked like it was going to lead to the #11 JGR team heading to Homestead with a fairly good cushion of points (as most Chase leaders have in the past), well, it just didn’t turn out that way. In fact, there are three teams that will arrive in Homestead for the final race in the 2010 Chase with a chance of being the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion; (in case you’re really out of touch), that’s Denny Hamlin now leading Jimmie Johnson by only 15  points and Kevin Harvick by a mere 46.

From this fan’s view, that is exactly how the 2010 NASCAR season has been going. This has been one of the most competitive seasons (at the very least) and we fans have been the beneficiaries of how NASCAR can make rule changes that make racing more exciting for all involved. I know there are those that disagree with me, but it is awfully hard to argue with the facts.

Many thought Jimmie Johnson would do what he has consistently done at Chase time and jump out to a comfortable lead and coast to his fifth straight championship. Although there was a moment it looked like that may happen, so far, it hasn’t materialized. Jimmie and the #48 Hendrick team have had to fight for every point and use every tools in the tool box to stay in contention.

Denny Hamlin has made it known he and the #11 JGR team had a plan for the season. They weren’t going to show all they had until it was time and they were going to take it to the #48 team. Up until Phoenix, it looked like the plan was working and it did look like they were going to be the “Chased” at the finale in Homestead. Instead, that thing many call “racing luck” took the wind out of their “big Mo” and they enter this coming weekend with only a small lead over Jimmie Johnson and only a little larger lead over Kevin Harvick.

Speaking of Kevin Harvick, for someone that has been “flying under the radar” for so many weeks, he has certainly been the center of a lot of attention lately. If there is someone that could come from third place in points to first in the last race of the season, Kevin Harvick and the #29 RCR team could be the ones. He has consistently been counted out in many races and managed to finish at, or near, the front in more than many want to even think about. Leaving Phoenix with only a 46 point deficit between him and leader Denny Hamlin as opposed to what looked like was going to be 100 plus has to be a tremendous boost to the #29 RCR team.

From this fan’s view, Phoenix just proved what I’ve always said about Sprint Cup. No matter what it looks like is going happen, this is NASCAR and anything can, and probably will happen…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 17, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com)

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NASCAR at Phoenix: Top Three Dueling It Out in the Desert

Rusty NormanThe problem with being in the top three in points with two races to go in the Chase is there are more than three cars on the track, about twenty of them could win on Sunday and only three of them have anything to lose, (uh, between the three of them that is.) Those three are dueling in the dessert for the top spot in the points for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship. The rest just want to win and don’t care too much about where those three finish, as long as it’s behind them.

All eyes, (maybe I should say, cameras and microphones), are focused on the three and many of the others actually look like they will be the ones running up front at the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday at PIR. Honestly, (at least from this fan’s view), the only interesting thing about those top three so far this weekend is the (media perceived) mind games they are playing with each other. It sure hasn’t been about how fast they’re running so far this weekend because they haven’t been at the top of the speed chart. It wasn’t where they qualified because the three qualified 17th or worse.

So where is the interest this weekend? Well, according to the media, it is in the mental sparring taking place between leader, Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, and the other two in the top three. Yeah, I know that is an over simplification, but from all the talk around the sport this week, you would think there is a lot of mental anguish being felt by the two teams in the top three that were beaten by Hamlin last week.

I’m sorry folks but I disagree…

From my view it appears the “rhetoric” is just smack and the intention is just one crew chief trying to focus the media attention on performance to the other teams and away from himself. One thing he does have going in his favor though; the #11 JGR team did win last weekend and did take over the points lead and the perception is the four time champ, Johnson, is on the ropes and Harvick is just running third.

If you listen to Jimmie Johnson, his #48 Hendrick team is just using the “rhetoric” as motivation to improve their performance in Phoenix this weekend. (Nothing like a little verbal nudge from your competitor to bring your focus back on center.) Contrary to what others may think, or say for that matter, Chad Knaus is not panicking or pulling at straws. (Once again from my view), he is working to make it through a little bit of a rough spot and give his driver the best possible circumstances to work with in the race. If he and the team do their job, their driver, Jimmie Johnson only has to be concerned with his performance on the track, not trying to make up for shortcomings that are out of his control. In other words, it puts it back in the driver’s hands where it should be. Chad’s pulling and replacement of the over-the-wall crew last week in the middle of the race, (when the opportunity arose), just shows me he is thinking outside the box and on top of his game.

Kevin Harvick is just doing what he’s been doing all season long; mostly flying under the radar and finishing consistently near the top every week, no matter how it looks like he might do when practice and qualifying are taken into consideration. He has to perform, yes, but he can also hold back a little, (maybe be patient would better state it) and wait for the other two to mess up, either in the pits or on the track. It doesn’t matter which place it happens for them because he is going to be there ready to pounce on their miscues. He’s been doing it with consistency all year and it has been working for him, too.

So… how’s the race going to shape up between them this weekend? Let’s just look at the obvious, (for a change). Last week, I stuck my neck out thinking the top three would play it a little safe and opt for not making mistakes by pressing the envelope. I was wrong and, if things had gone just slightly different at the end, all three would have probably finished in the top five. This week, they are all starting in the middle of the lineup and all three will have to work their way through traffic and hope they don’t get caught up in someone else’s problem.

Denny Hamlin has a little bit of that thing called the “Big Mo” going for him, based on the win last weekend and just general performance in the Chase. Things have been going the right way for him and it “appears” he is in good shape. Appearances can be deceptive though and, in racing, things can turn against you just as fast as a glance in the mirror or a flat tire. The possibility of him having some challenges is always there.

Lately, Jimmie Johnson has been playing catch-up for one reason or another, which is a little out of character for the #48 team, especially at this time of the year. One could say he’s just been having some bad luck and leave it at that, (but of course you know I have a hard time doing that.) The way I see it, the competition in the Cup series has definitely tightened up this year between all the teams and the #48 team has not been performing at 100% every week. They absolutely have to perform at 100% this weekend and let the cards fall where they will. Just as things haven’t quite gone the way they would like, this could be the week they step it up on the competition and take the points lead to Homestead.

Now that I’ve said all of that, I can’t forget the fact there ARE forty other cars on the track as well and more than one of them looks like they could take the trip to Victory Lane this weekend. It won’t really matter all that much if they do, because all eyes (uh, cameras and microphones), will be focused on Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick and next week at Homestead…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 13, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com)