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
All audio productions by 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

All audio productions by 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

All audio productions by 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
All audio productions by 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
All audio productions by 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

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Fontana After Thoughts – A Fan’s View

There were those that thought the race at Fontana was a real snoozer… that is until the last few laps of the race. One reason was the dominance of Kyle Bush at the 2 mile oval track in California. Not only did he win the Nationwide race on Saturday, but he led the most laps and looked like he was going to walk away with the Cup victory right up until the end. That’s when Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick decided to make it a race when the yellow came out after Bobby Labonte blew a right front tire and hit the wall.

Kyle Bush and six others decided to stay out on the track rather than come in and take tires on that last yellow flag. Thanks to NASCAR’s double file restart rule from last year, what could have been a predictable end to the 400 miles, became an exciting finish on a Sunday afternoon in California. Before the final yellow, Stewart had been catching Kyle Bush. At that last restart with nine laps to go, Tony Stewart unexpectedly dropped back from the front and was not a factor even though he looked like he might take the win a little bit earlier.

For the first few laps after the restart, it still looked as though Kyle was going to take the win but Jimmie Johnson finally caught up to him and passed him with three to go and it looked like Johnson was going to squeak out the win. Kevin Harvick had other plans though. He had more horses hooked up to the track and pulled ahead coming out of the last turn to take the win. In this fan’s opinion, it was one of the best finishes at the California track ever.

I heard the remarks of the guys on Tv and they stated Kevin Harvick had intimidated Johnson by pushing him part way down the backstretch and I don’t totally disagree with them. But in this fan’s opinion, it was very obvious Harvick had more horse power working for him than Johnson and not just intimidation and that’s what helped him win. Yeah, it’s also true he made an excellent move at the last turn, but it’s still my opinion he quite simply had a few more horses than Jimmie Johnson.

Well, that makes five different winners in the first five races in 2011. If things continue on as they have so far, I’m thinking we may have 36 different winners this year.

Well, maybe not, but I’m still gonna be watching every week to see what really does happen…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© April 1, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

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

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

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

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

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

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

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

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

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

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions