The Final Four Race For It All At Homestead from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The run for the 2019 MENCS Championship ends at Homestead this Sunday. If you ask the four drivers of the final four, they will tell you it has been a long, hard road but the end is in sight. As a fan, I can’t help but think the pressure is on whether they outwardly show it or not. One thing I know is it will be all business when the time comes to climb into the car and buckle in for the race to claim the 2019 Championship.

When it comes to the finale in NASCAR, it is different in several ways. For one, it is two races in one. First, it is a race to win the Ford Ecoboost 400. Second, it is a race between the four drivers in the Championship Four. The winner of the race can be someone other than those in the Championship four but the 2019 Championship will be claimed by the one of the final four that finishes ahead of the other three. Usually, the winner of both is one of the Championship Four.

During the race, the focus will mostly be on the Championship Four even if another competitor outside the four is leading and running away with the victory. Even though that sounds a bit unusual, hardly anyone really cares who wins unless it is one of those four competing for the Championship and, if it happens that someone outside the four wins, there will be two celebrations for the victors.

Well, don’t let that confuse you. The winner of the race often comes from those in the Championship Four and, more often than not, it takes a win to claim the Championship.

Even though there is a lot of hype surrounding this race, it will be serious business for the four drivers, crew chiefs and teams. Since weather cancelled qualifying, the Championship Four start in the first two rows and that may be a precursor to the way the race will go. Since these four drivers and teams start out front, it may mean things could get a little hairy from the get-go but, since they are considered to be the strongest teams going in, it just may be a battle between the four of them all through the 400 miles.

There are those that think Denny Hamlin has the advantage and momentum. That could be but I’m not so sure, at least from my view. You see, he has had a really good year but he also has a history of beating himself. It could be he has learned not to press until it is important to do so and I do believe he is older and wiser. His chances are good for taking the win and the Championship but I’m not willing to name him the victor yet.

One reason I’m not willing to name Denny as the favorite is Martin Truex Jr. He and his crew chief, Cole Pearn, have managed to shine, especially when it has counted in the recent past. After all, just look at the number of wins they have. Truex has seven and Denny has six this season. When all is said and done, the whole 400 miles could be between these two.

That brings me to Kyle Bush. Of the three JGR teams, he has been the one struggling in the latter part of the season. Now, I’m not saying struggling in the sense he hasn’t or won’t be a factor. I’m just saying he has struggled and it could go either way for him in the Ford Ecoboost 400. From my view, he may have turned the corner at just the right time. I guess that remains to be seen.

When it comes to Kevin Harvick, I think it he has the biggest struggle since it is one SHR team against three JGR teams. A few weeks ago, his number four team hit on something and it remains to be seen if it carries through to this Championship race at Homestead. In observing some of the goings on this week leading up to the race, He has looked confident and calm. From my view, he is probably the most mentally tough and confident of the four competitors. Unless something really out of the ordinary happens during the race like an equipment failure or getting involved in someone else’s accident, I do think he is up to the challenge of the JGR team cars he faces.

So, I’ll make this short and to the point. No matter how it actually goes, I think Kevin Harvick is going to end up taking his second MENCS Championship over the other three from JGR. If he does, just remember I told you he was going to do it. If he doesn’t then you can tell me how wrong I was and we’ll all move on to next year with hopes for more exciting racing and the hope the Chevys finally become competitive again…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 16, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Making It Or Breaking It At Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s just no two ways about it. Four drivers won’t make it to Homestead in the final four competing for the MENCS Championship for 2019. Two are already qualified for the finale and we already know what their names are. It is the other two names that remain in limbo until this one race at Phoenix is finished and in the books. When that happens, we will either have recognized our expected choices as winners or also rans or be completely amazed at how wrong we could be.

I don’t know about you, but it is another time in this year’s playoffs where anything could happen this weekend. I mean, if you just look at what has happened to several of the drivers over last few races, you’ll see overwhelming evidence that no one except Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are guaranteed a spot at Homestead. No matter what some say about Kyle Bush or Joey Logano and them moving on to the Championship race, there is still no guarantee.

Speaking of Kyle Bush, does anyone think he hasn’t been struggling at least slightly for a while now. Oh sure, he’s still “sort of” maintained his points position except for being passed by the two winners over the last two weeks. If you listen to him, the race Sunday is between him and Logano when it comes to moving on to the final four. He makes no mention of the other drivers below the cut line and it appears he expects to win at Phoenix. That could very well be the way it turns out.

Joey Logano, on the other hand, doesn’t sound all that confident even though he had a very good week last weekend. Listening to him in interviews over this last week he has had a guarded optimism about them. He doesn’t seem to be overly confident of how he will finish but does have at least a little “hope” in his voice. From this fan’s view, I think he is concerned about another disaster striking and taking him out of contention all together.

Personally, I don’t know what to think of these two. I know they don’t really care what I think and you probably don’t either but I have to say this. I’m am not totally convinced that either one, or both, of them will move on to the final four.

Why would I say such a thing? Well… just look at what has happened to Chase Elliott over the last few weeks. He has gone from a favored one to move on to one that has to win to make it to Homestead as a one of the four competing for the Championship. There was the equipment failures of two blown engines and a broken axle, (quite unusual for a Hendrick racing team.) Last week he just made a driver error that put him way out of touch with the cut line and made this weekend a must win to get in.

Denny Hamlin looked to be a lock for the final four and he has managed to drop below the cutline. That was completely unexpected by most and now he probably needs to win if he expects to make it to the final four. We all know he is quite capable but there is still the question of, will he? Could something happen to put him completely out of the running? Could he score a lot of points in the stages and still be outpointed by Bush and Logano? These are all questions that won’t be answered until the race is run and done.

And then there’s Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. Both not totally out but by no means in. Both still have a chance to make it to Homestead and in the hunt but a lot of positive things have to happen for them. They both have to run up front and score lot of points while the ones above them have to have really bad races and lose a lot of points. In reality, they both need to win but you and I both know only one of them can so guess what that means? Yeah, that’s right; both of them can’t win so there just about has to be a complete and total failure (in other words, finishing last) for Kyle Bush and Joey Logano. Oh, and by the way, Denny Hamlin would have to be right there with them in those last places.

Does it sound like this weekend is going to be full of excitement, drama and emotion? Does it also sound like the pressure is on all six of those not qualified for the final four? I would say a very resounding, YES! to all of those questions, how about you?

I expect this to be one of the most aggressive and action-packed races of the year and especially in these 2019 playoffs. As I said at the opening of this, four drivers and teams won’t make it to the final four. Two are in and six want to make it in. Of the six wanting to make it in, only two will and which two remains to be seen. A winner from below the cut line changes everything and, since troubles have been abundant for many of the contenders, a bad day by any one or more of the six can do the same.

I don’t know what you think, but this fan thinks this is going to be a race to remember for a long time…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 9, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

All Out Going For It At Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s no doubt the emotions will rise to a peak at Martinsville on Sunday afternoon. There’s just no way they can’t. We’re talking about short track racing on a half mile oval with a lot on the line for eight drivers and teams as well as all the rest that want to win the coveted Grandfather Clock. Just which of the drivers might come out on top remains to be seen but from this fan’s view, it should prove to be a very interesting afternoon.

In my opinion, I expect just about the whole field to be “all out going for it” when it comes to competing for the win, but eight of them are more interested than the rest simply because a win by one of them means moving on to Homestead to the final four.

I know you’ve heard all of the talk about which ones have already been chosen to be in the final four, but I’m just not as sure as some about that. With the way things have gone so far in the playoffs, I’m still one of those that believes anything can happen. When I look at the round of eight, I only see one driver that hasn’t really struggled much at all. Of course that would be Denny Hamlin.

I admit, he has been much more confident and less bothered by things that used to bring about his demise in previous years. If his performance continues as it has lately, I think he might be the only one of the eight to make it to the final four. Of course that could change over the next three weeks, but I don’t see it unless his course totally reverses itself.

The next one on my list of “probable’s” to make it to the final four is Martin Truex Jr. It is hard to argue with his consistency lately and it is hard to argue with his performance on the tracks over the next three weeks. He almost won Martinsville last year at this time (Joey Logano put an end to that) and he is as determined as ever to go all out for it again this year. And don’t depend on him letting Logano or anyone else repeat what happened last year if the opportunity arises. He is more likely to be the one dishing it out this time.

After those two, (and I’m really not so sure both of them will move on), is where it really gets interesting, at least in my mind. What I’m saying is, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and, yes, even Kyle Bush could end up as “no shows” in the final four at Homestead.

(I know, you think I left someone out, don’t you? Believe me, I haven’t forgotten Chase Elliott and I will talk about him a little later.)

The five I mentioned above have had their ups and downs over the last several weeks and unfortunately, I’m not so sure any of them will make it to the final four unless they win one of the next three races. They just haven’t shown themselves to be that much better than those they are competing against. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying they won’t make it. I’m just saying they and their teams have to be just about flawless over the next three races, they have to get as many points as they can and they need to finish near the front. Two of them are only in the round of eight because they won a race in the round of twelve and that would be Larson and Blaney. One of them, Logano, has struggled to be where he is and, even though Martinsville is one of his better tracks, I see no guarantee he won’t struggle at one or two of the next three tracks. (If he is in front of Martin Truex Jr. as they approach the final lap or two, well, let’s just say “anything can happen.”

Kevin Harvick may not do well at Martinsville but he does tend to perform well at Texas and Phoenix so he could gain a lot of points at the latter two even if he doesn’t win one of them. To me, he and Logano are the two biggest question marks in my mind over the next three races. Both of them could advance to the final four or one or both of them could miss it altogether. I’m just not sure about them at this point but I do know time will reveal it to us over the next three weekends.

When it comes to Kyle Bush, I’m just not sure how he will do. Over the last several races, he has looked good and bad but relatively consistent. He has been known to have good and bad races at Martinsville, as well as the other two that follow. I’m not sure what it is but something just isn’t there for him lately. Of course, that could change on a dime but it is another thing we’ll just have to wait and see on.

Chase Elliott needs to win. That’s just the way it looks from this fan’s view. He doesn’t necessarily have to win at Martinsville, but he needs to win at one of these next three tracks. Starting out in the first practice at Martinsville with a blown engine after only five or six laps isn’t starting off the weekend with a bang. He and his team need to be flawless from this point on if he wants to make it to the final four. After that, well, I guess he could win his first MENCS Championship. What ever the case, over the next three weekends of racing, the eight in the playoffs are going to be “all out going for it” at Martinsville, Texas AND Phoenix and it’s gong to be an intense three weekends…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 26, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Playoff Pressure Is On At Talladega from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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After last weekend’s race at the Monster, there are those that would like this one at Talladega to be a little more tame. Joey Logano and Chase Elliott are two of them and it could be said that last weekend was “bad” for the both of them. Because of the problems they had last weekend, the pressure is on them to have a good race at Talladega. Fortunately, both of them are capable of doing so, especially at Talladega. Of course, you already know, they aren’t the only ones that have to have a good race at a track where anything can happen and anyone in the field can win.

From this fan’s view, and considering where they are this weekend, I really don’t think anyone in the standings from sixth to twelfth can afford to have a bad race. The only one that won’t be sweating out the laps all the way to the end is Kyle Larson. With his win last weekend, he is already qualified to move on to the Round of Eight. Though some are safer than others in the remaining top twelve, Talladega can rob a bunch of points from even the highest in the standings, just as the Monster did last weekend.

Joey Logano and William Byron are basically tied at the eighth spot going into Sunday’s race. Both of them need to score a lot of stage points and it wouldn’t hurt if either one of them won. Of course you know which one I would prefer but, of the two, I have no idea which will actually step up to the plate and do it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m going to go for the one in the Chevy. When it comes down to these two, well it’s no contest. I’m going to go with Byron every time. I’m just not a Logano fan but that doesn’t take anything away from his talent or abilities. It just means I’m not a fan. In reality, I’m a Chevy fan over Ford probably because I’m partial to Chevys. I used to race Chevys. I’ve almost always owned a Chevy except once and that was way back in the seventies. (I also admit my wife’s car is a Toyota – but that’s another story.) I just like Chevys.

When my friends and I would talk about racecars and racing back in the day, there were a lot of cliché sayings about Fords. Most of my friends had stock cars but some had drag racing cars. Some of those old clichés are still around and you probably recognize them too. I’ll just mention a few about the Fords. The Chevy guys would say to the Ford guys, “Found On Road Dead” or “Fix Or Repair Daily” to which the Ford guys would offer their comeback of, “First On Race Day.” It was all in good fun. One of my friends had a tricked out drag car and he use to tell me why he had a Chevy over a Ford. Quite simply he said it was because the Chevy was cheap horsepower; they could get more horsepower with less expense and that was a plus.

Oh well, enough of, “back in the day.”

One thing I have to bring up is something that has become more common-place in recent years. It is the whining going on from some of the drivers. Because of his problems last weekend, several were upset with Joey Logano because he raced them hard even though he was twenty plus laps down. It just so happens they are from the JGR camp and they have the most wins this season of any of the other organizations. Two that standout in my mind are Martin Truex Jr and Denny Hamlin. (Remember I’ve talked about Kyle Bush before.) They were griping about Joey and others that were racing them too hard.

It seems that these days, if you or your organization seems to be running better than others, everyone is supposed to just move out of the way so you don’t have to work so hard to pass. From this fan’s view (and I’m not alone in this opinion) I don’t see why they think that way. With the Format the way it is in Cup, every point counts and just one point can make a difference in whether someone can advance to the next round or not. If you don’t believe me, just look at Jimmie Johnson last season at the Roval. He missed moving on by the minutest margin and missed being able to compete for the Championship.

That’s why I think Sunday’s race at Talladega is going to be one of the most intense Super Speedway races in a long time. I don’t think anyone is going to be playing “Mr. nice guy.” I think all of those still in the playoffs and hoping to move on to the next round are going to push the envelope. There is also an element called aggressive driving and I think we will see a lot of that on Sunday afternoon. I hesitate to say they will put themselves in jeopardy in their aggressive maneuverings in the packs but, I do expect there will often be “cautious aggressiveness” exhibited on a regular basis, especially when the end of the stages are near.

I don‘t know how you feel about it but, the winner of this one could be a surprise winner. We’ve got drivers looking for rides next year, drivers looking for wins that haven’t won in while and drivers trying to make it to the Round Of Eight. With all of that going on, I expect at least one Big One and that could be the one that ends somebody’s hopes for this season. Sure, I know there’s another race left in this round after Talladega but, I also know having to win to move on to the next round can be difficult for any of them and every point counts. (Hey wait a minute! Didn’t I already say that?)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 12, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Four Are Gone When The Roval Is Done from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There is one thing that is certain for the race this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. when this race is done there will be four less drivers and teams competing for the MENCS Championship. Without a doubt that is one of the only definites this fan can see but, which ones won’t move on to the round of twelve is beyond me at the time of this writing. We all know the ones that are locked in to moving on but there are those from about ninth to fifteenth that really need a good finish when the Roval is done. As for Erik Jones in sixteenth, well, he needs to win to be sure he can make it.

The Roval is a unique road course track and just about anything can happen. Honestly, from my view, just about anything we can think of probably will happen before this one is in the books. This is the second time the MENCS teams have visited the Roval and, if you remember last year’s race, a lot of unexpected things happened. I expect the same or even more this time.

The bubble drivers – those from ninth to fifteenth – are only separated by fourteen points and if any of them run into problems their run in the playoffs is through for this 2019 season. You already know the ones in the most precarious situations are, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Bush and Erik Jones because they are already below the cutline. Those that can’t afford any problems (at least from this fan’s view) are William Byron and Aric Almirola since they are only above the cut by two to three points.

Of course, as you already know, William Byron won the pole position and has looked to have speed since they unloaded off the truck, along with his teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson. Bowman sits in thirteenth place in the standings just two points behind Byron which could make for some very interesting drama as the race progresses to its completion.

Chase Elliott is reasonably safe sitting in seventh place with +37 points but he cannot afford to have a bad day and, if he has a DNF, his chances would be done for the playoffs and advancing to the final four. It is worth noting that many have already written off the Chevys making it to the round of eight let alone the final four. From this fan’s view, Chase looked to be struggling a bit in practice and even struggled in qualifying. I’m not ruling him out yet, as far as having another good road course run, but he does have his work cut out for himself.

In observing the Hendrick Chevys so far this weekend, they do look to have the speed and have proved it by three of them starting in the front two rows. My concern is what has plagued them most of the season and that is maintaining that speed all the way to the finish. Practice times and qualifying are one thing but it doesn’t say much about how they will fare on restarts, in traffic and all the way to the finish.

I will say this though; Jimmie Johnson could win this one. That would be a big deal for him if for no other reason than he hasn’t had a win in a long time. If he does win that would make it all the more difficult for Erik Jones to advance to the next round unless he scores a lot of stage points and finishes very near the front.

Although there is a lot going on throughout the playoff contenders, one that has me concerned is Kyle Bush. Don’t know what’s going on with him but he just hasn’t looked all that good recently and hasn’t been handling what “the racing gods” have been handing him lately. It was even obvious during practice that he may not deal with slower cars all that well like in recent races. I’m not saying anything negative but, his aggressiveness could come back to haunt him and take him right out of the hunt for a Championship. The JGR Toyotas are strong but the stress of the playoffs could be the undoing for a couple of them. (Oh, in case you’re wondering, Denny Hamlin is the other one. Not saying things will go wrong. Just saying they could.)

In observing the first practice and qualifying, it certainly appeared to this fan that many were struggling with wheel hop and that could prove to be a disaster for, not only the ones experiencing it, but for those that might get taken out along with them. If it happens to take someone out that needs a good finish, well, we all know what that will mean and that is one thing that will make this race at the Roval a bigger wild card than Talladega. But then, this is a cutoff race and it is at one of the most challenging tracks in the playoffs.

This fan expects there could be more than the usual drama and emotion throughout this one and some of it may play out on the track… Hey, I’m just saying it is going to be intense and You and I both know what that can mean…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 28, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Playoffs Begin At Vegas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well, it’s that time again. Yeah, it’s time for the 2019 MENCS playoffs to begin and what better place is there than Vegas. I mean, it’s time for the sixteen drivers and teams competing for the Championship to start showing all their cards. No more playing around and experimenting; the time has come to go all in. The next nine races are all that matter as they try to make it into the final four and compete for the coveted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November, just ten short weeks away.

A lot of the talking heads have already chosen which four will be in the final four, but I’m not so sure I agree with them. Well… at least not yet. One of the interesting things about this playoff format is that there is no guarantee the ones on top, now, will make it to the final four. Just as some of the ones at the bottom of the standings had weeks of struggle before they sealed their spots in the playoffs, the same can happen to those that are considered to be the “most likely” ones to advance all the way to the final four.

I do admit the favorites, the ones on top right now, have managed a lot of wins amongst themselves and they do appear to have the advantage going into this first race. All of that can change immediately after this one is in the books. After all, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer are great examples of what can happen after three races. They both got in by the skin of their teeth and, had they not performed as they did, neither of them would be in the mix at all.

Ryan Newman was constantly pressing to finish as high as possible in the last several races just to get into the top sixteen. His was no easy task and he fought and clawed his way in. Clint Bowyer was solidly in the top sixteen and ran into a string of bad finishes that almost negated his chances to even be in the playoffs. Both of these drivers didn’t lock themselves in until the race last weekend at Indy and both of them had to sweat it out to the very end.

Unfortunately, the drivers presently in the top spots, that locked themselves in early on in the season, could face the same struggles as Bowyer did. They have acquired a lot of playoff points and look to be obvious choices because they have multiple wins and show up almost every race weekend with fast race cars.

Although I do agree with the old saying the cream always rises to the top, I’m not willing to admit right off that their performance will continue to pull them through. In racing, anything can happen and bad racing luck can happen even to the best of them.

The names this fan keeps hearing mentioned as being the final four are, Kyle Bush, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. I realize that’s five but Kevin Harvick seems to be peaking at the right time and it’s a toss-up, according to many, which one is the more likely choice between the two, namely Harvick and Truex Jr. After all, these are the ones most often mentioned as the ones most likely to be in the final four even before the first race in the playoffs has seen its first lap.

If you don’t think what I am saying here can happen to any of them, just take a look at Jimmie Johnson. Earlier in the summer, it looked as though he was going to be in the playoffs by points, if not by having a win. But then the bottom fell out and he dropped a bunch of spots just like Clint Bowyer. Just as Jimmie Johnson fell out of contention completely over several weeks, the exact same thing can happen to any of the top sixteen in this first round, and in particular to the ones “expected” to move on. I realize this may sound pretty far fetched but don’t think bad luck can’t be a deciding factor in which of the drivers and teams move on. Engine failures, tire failures and any number of things can, and often do, go wrong. It doesn’t even have to be the fault of the ones taken out by someone else’s problem but, it can happen and there isn’t anything they can do about it if it does.

Now look… I’m not saying what happened to Jimmie Johnson is likely to happen to one of the top seeded drivers. What I am saying is, although a lot of the #48’s problems were brought on by their own miscues, there were also things they had absolutely no control over that cost them good point days. Those days cost them dearly and that is exactly the type stuff that could happen to the others…

Just before I close, I have to give my opinion of all the hype surrounding Jimmie Johnson’s missing the playoffs for the first time in his career. It’s my opinion many of the media guys (and gals) are making too big a deal out of it. NASCAR isn’t going to fold just because seven-time Cup Champ, Jimmie Johnson didn’t make the playoffs. It also doesn’t mean he is through and should retire. It just means he had a bad season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won one or two of these last ten races and, though it won’t get him a Championship this year, it just might mean everyone should look out for him next season. I mean, now there’s no pressure and every bit of progress they make now can carry over to next year. Hey, just sayin’…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 14, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Who Will Be In When This One Ends from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s a lot to be said about the 25th running of the Brickyard 400 taking place Sunday at Indy. It is one race any NASCAR driver would like to win and it is one of four Crown Jewels on the NASCAR circuit. The biggest question many of us have is, “Who’ll be in when this one ends.”

Yeah, that’s right. This is it. This is the last race and end of what is called in these recent years, the regular season. Kyle Bush has already clinched the 2019 regular season championship and, when this one is done, the playoffs begin.

But wait. You already knew that didn’t you. What is unknown by both you and me at the time of this writing is which sixteen drivers and teams will be in the playoffs competing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November. That’s another thing to be said about this 25th running of the Brickyard 400. It is where the bubble will burst for at least two of the four now sitting at a precarious place in the standings. Of course you know the main four I’m talking about. Barring a completely unexpected happening, the four I’m talking about are Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.

At least three of these four drivers have been battling bad luck and bad decisions over several weekends of the racing in this last part of the season to bounce in and out of the top sixteen spots. After the race Sunday, there will be no more bouncing. The field will be set and, barring the unforeseen, two will be locked out of making a bid for the 2019 MENCS Championship.

I know the next things I’m going to say you’ve probably heard a hundred times over the last week or weeks. The four drivers on or around the bubble have to perform well in the Brickyard 400. Clint Bowyer is only eight points to the good and, from this fan’s view and the way his luck has been running, he can’t afford to have a bad day. In reality, he just needs to finish ahead of the other three and he should be in the top sixteen and on his way to the playoffs. That is by no means a given since he has been high enough in the points to not have to worry and now must perform well to definitely make it in.

Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez are tied at the sixteenth spot with Suarez in the sixteenth spot because of the tiebreaker. This will be most dramatic part of the entire race in this fan’s opinion, since these two have a little history, in particular from the race last weekend at Darlington. There is no doubt Ryan Newman knows what it will take if the opportunity is there for him and, from past years experiences, we know he will do what it takes. He has been the most consistent finisher over the past weekends’ races compared to Johnson and Bowyer. That won’t mean a whole lot if he isn’t in position to take advantage of those in front of him in the standings. From this fan’s view, I expect him to be even harder to pass than usual and that won’t bode well for the other three.

There is no doubt, Daniel Suarez is a hard charger and, as we witnessed last weekend, he is not opposed to pressing the envelope on those he is competing against. He has speed and he has the will to press that envelope when necessary. I don’t expect this weekend to be any different than what he has shown much of the season and I don’t think he will let up even around Ryan Newman. It is the same for him as it is for the four I’m mostly talking about here. They all need stage points and they all need to finish ahead of those they are running against to make it into the top sixteen.

There is none of these four that has had a more up and down times at this critical time in the season than Jimmie Johnson. He was in, he was out, he was in and he’s out again. Even though we have seen the Hendrick teams improve throughout the season and two of the Hendrick drivers are in the playoffs by wins. Of course that would be Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman and William Byron is in by points. The only one not in is Jimmie Johnson and there is none that would like to be in from HMS more than him.

From this fan’s view, his best chance to make sure he is in the playoffs is to win. There is no other way for him to guarantee himself being in other than doing that. It’s the only way he can remove any doubt no matter what happens to the rest. So… do you think there is any pressure on him and his team for the Brickyard 400? Yeah, that’s what I thought you would say and I agree with you…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 7, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The MENCS Teams Will Be Flatout At MIS from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Yeah, you can go ahead and say it. I can take it (and I agree with you at least somewhat.) I know the title of this one is a little cliché and probably sounds a little cheesy and awkward. The meaning won’t change though, no matter how it’s worded.

With the reduced 550 hp package the Cup teams will be running this weekend, the racing will be, “Flatout” and the starts and re-starts will be fast and furious as the drivers take things to the limit to gain advantage over as many as they can. At Michigan International Speedway this weekend, I guess you could say it is going to be all about passing before you get passed and gaining as many spots as you can before the aero starts to affect you. In short, pass as many as you can and try to get into clean air.

So, what’s your opinion? Do you think the drivers around the bubble area are feeling the heat? Well, here’s my opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much emotion and tempers flaring as I have witnessed this season. Think about it. Don’t you think it has become extremely intense over the last several weeks?

Take Jimmie Johnson, for example. A lot of the talk this week has been about how upset he was with the move by Ryan Blaney at The Glen that cost Jimmie a good finish. We’ve heard it over and over again since the incident, of how many have NEVER seen him as upset as he was. Apparently, it may not be over yet and that could spell trouble for both of them if things carry over onto the track. It may not happen at MIS but, it may happen at a shorter track.

From this fan’s view, it is understandable. Jimmie had put himself in a position to take advantage of Clint Bowyer’s struggles and move into a more solid position in the playoff standings. Ryan’s bump definitely put an end to that possibility. The other part is that the seven time Cup Champ has been struggling over most of the last year and a half and this fan thinks it is definitely beginning to weigh on him. It is good to see some of the fire and intensity show up. It tells me he isn’t done with going for championship number eight. It may not happen this year, but…

The Johnson/Blaney incident wasn’t the only one at The Glen. There was another that brought loud cheers from the stands. Yeah… I know you know which one I’m talking about. That’s right. It was the one between Kyle Bush and Darryl “Bubba” Wallace. I don’t think it’s just this fan’s view but, there is a reason why the response was so great. (Well, this is my opinion anyway.) It’s because, more often than not, Kyle is a pain in the… well… how do I make this G rated? Awww, let’s just say he can be a pain in the backside.

Look, with my saying that, I am not taking anything away from his talent as driver or as a person. He is one of the most talented drivers ever in NASCAR and he will continue to be. It’s just that, from this fan’s view, when something happens, it is either someone else’s fault, (like with William Byron on the second lap at The Glen), or if it turns out in his favor, he thinks it’s just racing and “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” When it goes against him, well, that’s a completely different thing. He is in a bad mood and doesn’t want to talk about it or be interviewed. Hey, it’s not that I don’t understand the intensity and emotions, I’m just offering my opinion and saying that’s why the crowd in the stands reacted the way they did with the incident between him and Wallace. (I have to be honest here… I reacted the same as the crowd.)

From this fan’s view, one thing the rule packages, making the playoffs and the manufacturer struggles to be more competitive has done is add to the over-all intensity in the Cup Series. I don’t think it is any one thing in particular of the things I just mentioned but making the top sixteen for the playoffs has certainly moved to the top of the list in making things a bit more “interesting” along with all of them trying to earn playoff points.

So even though the drivers involved in the disagreements have had their discussions and, “worked it all out” between them, this fan isn’t so sure everything is over. I think there is too much riding on the bubble group, the playoff points and the regular season battle between Joey Logano and Kyle Bush.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this race will be as exciting and dramatic as the last few have been, but I do think it will be a better race than I thought it might be after the first practice started. This may be a race that is more like the ones at Daytona or Talladega than a normal Michigan race. The Chevys may actually have a chance of winning this one over the Fords and the Toyotas. I’m not really expecting that. I do think they’ll make it interesting though. It’s all going to depend strategy, fuel mileage and clean air…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 10, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Who Will Win At The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take to the track on Sunday afternoon, there are several somebodies that really need a win in 2019 at The Glen. The question is, who will win at the Glen and will it be someone that needs the win to lock themselves into the playoffs or will it be someone else?

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. The playoff picture is really coming into focus and there is a real traffic jam at, or near, the cutoff spot of sixteenth. There are several that really need a good finish at The Glen and not all of those are pressing the envelope to get in, but they are pressing to stay in the top sixteen. It goes without saying the emotions are elevated and the drama is more evident than ever.

There are four or five that hog the conversation every week and, well, at least from this fan’s view, it does make every race very interesting. Now, I’m not one to mince words – well, at least not on a regular basis – but not all of the drama and excitement has been for the win at the end of the races the last couple of weeks. Some of it has taken place a little further back in the pack and some of it has centered around problems even before the race begins. Yeah, several have had major difficulties in practice and qualifying and it has affected where they start and probably a little bit of where they finish. Others? Well let’s just say they’ve had some problems in passing inspections. I won’t mention any names because we all know which ones they are but, suffice it to say, there are more than a couple.

The big news this week has been about the crew chief change over at Hendrick Motor-Sports for the #48 Chevy of Jimmie Johnson. It goes without saying he has been struggling most of the season and he is now just outside the top sixteen for the playoffs. He is twelve points behind Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman and the last couple of weeks have been a struggle for him. Yeah, I know he won the second stage last weekend but that was his first stage win and when all was said and done, he finished fifteenth at the end. Yes, he did gain five points on the two ahead of him with that finish but he needs more. In fact, it would really help if he took his first win at The Glen in his career this weekend with his new crew chief. Looking at his recent stats for The Glen, it isn’t likely he’ll win simply because he hasn’t done all that well in the last several years. Still, he is a seven-time Cup Champion and we all know he knows not only how to drive but how to win.

The Glen is a tough road course and there are places around the track that anyone could get themselves into trouble. It has happened to some of the best and I don’t see any reason why it may not be a factor this weekend. Last year’s winner, Chase Elliott is looking to repeat but he has really struggled over the last several weeks, especially the last two. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t repeat. I’m just saying they’re going to have to step it up a notch over what the last couple of weeks have been like.

Okay, let’s take a quick look at a couple of others that need a win at The Glen. The first
from my view is Kyle Larson. Sure, I know he’s about thirty-five points ahead of Bowyer and Newman, but with the way his luck has been running, he needs a win to solidify his playoff spot and then maybe he and his team can focus on just how they will approach the playoffs. Besides, thirty-five points isn’t much with the amount of races left before the playoffs.

Another is Daniel Suarez. He is just twenty-one points behind Jimmie Johnson in eighteenth spot. A win would immediately move him into the playoffs along with his other SHR teammates. Of the four SHR teams, he is the only one outside of the top sixteen. Go ahead. Think back over the last several weeks of racing and tell me, how aggressive has he been. Mm-Hm, that’s exactly what I was thinking. His aggressiveness on the track (and sometimes off) has been as elevated as his emotions. He can’t really afford to have another bad finish or two. Well, that is, if he doesn’t win a race between now and the playoffs.

The problem with things being so tight around the bubble area of the standings is that it only takes a DNF from any one or more of the five I’ve mentioned and everything about the playoffs can change for those close to the cut. The same goes for a win from any one or more of the five in the weeks before the playoffs. If anyone thinks that stress, aggression and emotional levels aren’t at a heightened level just doesn’t get it. All of the drivers in the series want to win and they want to win this weekend at The Glen, especially those wanting to make it into the playoffs. The problem is, only one of them can.

So… who will win at The Glen this weekend? I’m not really sure but, I know it could get rough out there and, as far as this fan is concerned, this one should be intense in every way. Whether you talk about strategy, driver aggression or pit crew performance, this could be one of the best we’ve seen at The Glen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 3, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Second 2019 Trip To The Tricky Triangle At Pocono from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Hey, it’s the second trip to the Tricky Triangle for the MENCS teams in 2019 but does anyone really think it’s going to be like the last trip several weeks ago. Not if you’ve been listening to the crew chiefs and drivers as they anticipate taking it to the “tricky, sticky triangle” for the second time this summer.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the talk over the last week of the changes for this weekend’s race and one of the hot topics is all about the “sticky stuff” (PJ1) they’ll be putting down on the track. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten mixed signals from listening to the talk about the decision to have it on the track for the first time. Some say they think it is going to help and make it easier to pass and others say it is only going to make things a little more complicated.

One of the concerns is that turn two will be a place where there might be more wrecks than normal. They say the “sticky stuff” could make for three or four wide racing in that area of the track. If that is the case, since it has been a problem area in the past, it could prove to be interesting, especially if and, more likely, when the “sticky” begins to go away.

You know, I find it interesting how the drivers (and crew chiefs, I guess) are talking about how they need to be more aggressive with the 550 and 750 horsepower packages. Mostly they talk about the 550hp package and how hard it is to pass where it is used. It seems like everyone these days is using the bump and run to make their passes and if the other guy goes into the wall, well, that’s just the way it goes. When it happens to them, well, let’s just say they think a little differently. They’ve also brought back the old “rubbin’ is racing” adage because so many are using the rubbin’ to gain advantage and finish making the pass instead of getting stalled out as they try.

I will admit, most of them lean on the other guy just enough to get past him but the times of problems being caused by the rubbing are increasing and the emotions are beginning to surface with paybacks and torn up racecars. I mean, we all hear the drivers say they’re going to race the others like they race them. If that means things get a little rough and the paybacks happen more frequently, eventually NASCAR will step in like the have in the past. With more torn-up racecars that’s where it makes it even more expensive for the owners and that may not be a good thing either.

Hey, I know there is a big difference between rubbing and wrecking somebody and I’m okay with the rubbing. Where it begins to show a possible problem is with the higher emotions in play with trying to make the top sixteen for the playoffs. I know you’ve noticed emotions are running pretty high right now and I don’t see that changing at all until the top sixteen are decided, do you?

Speaking of the top sixteen being decided, there are those that can’t afford to have another bad week because the bubble area is getting a little crowded. First It was Clint Bowyer struggling and falling below the cut and now it’s Jimmie Johnson. At the moment, Bowyer holds a seventeen-point advantage over Johnson and Suarez. Ryan Newman is only four points ahead of Bowyer. And then there is Erik Jones. He is in fourteenth at the moment but another bad finish for him could spell disaster for him again also. To say things are heating up at the cut line is a major understatement from this fan’s view. It is exciting and dramatic and unfortunately, at lest from this fan’s view, things could get a little rougher than they already have.

The way things are right now, it kind of reminds me of a story of something that happened back when I was racing at our local track. In the late model class, one of the drivers put another out to win the race. They had been going at it for many laps and the guy that got put out wasn’t happy about being put out so he approached the other driver a wanted to know why he put him out. In one of the most memorable statements I ever remember hearing about, the guy put it to him this way, (I’ll edit it here to keep it G rated.) He said, “Look, I tried you high and I tried you low and then, cotton-picker, it was time for you to go!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 27, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

MENCS Teams At Chicagoland from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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So… what’s the BIG STORY for the race at Chicagoland this weekend? Well… from my view, (and in my opinion), there isn’t one. Well, actually, there are what some call “Big Stories” but, from this fan’s view they aren’t big – just more of the same. There is the same talk about the BIG winners so far this season and how they are the “favorites” to be out front when the final black and white checkered flag drops on Sunday afternoon. There is also the hope that there will be a finish like there was between Kyle Larson and Kyle Bush last season OR possibly something similar between some other drivers.

From this fan’s view, this has been a very different kind of year for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I’m not so sure my view is of much interest to many but it is still my view and, for some reason, I’m not sure why, this season has been a little boring to me. I’m not sure if it has to do with the lack of performance from the Chevys or the lack of performance from some of the older and more accomplished drivers. Whatever it is, it definitely has made a difference in how or what I think as each week of racing approaches and arrives.

I mean, think about it. When has some of the best racing taken place over the first half of the season? Has it been when the starts and restarts take place or has it been when they are just clicking off the laps to get to the end of a stage or take the final flag? Has it been as hard for Ford fans as it has been for the Chevy fans to watch the Toyotas – and I hesitate to use the word – dominate the way they have this season?

Let me ask you some questions. Do you have a favorite driver other than those that have won most of the races this season? Do you have a favorite organization other than JGR or Penske? Have you lost interest in a race when your favorite has either dropped out due to accident or mistake that has put them completely out of contention? Do you find yourself hoping for cautions so you can at least see some aggressive racing for a few laps until things settle back down to the inevitable?

Yeah… that’s what I thought. Me, too.

Look, I still start out every race weekend with the hope that my favorite driver, drivers or teams will make a good showing. I have the hope they have found something that will allow them to at least run with the usual leaders or even win but, I have to admit, that hasn’t happened yet this season – at least with any consistency.

Contrary to what some may think, I am not just a one driver, one organization fan. I have several favorites, driving something other than a Chevy, on different teams and there are those I would really like to see win or, at least, do well on any given weekend. I have also found there are some drivers I didn’t used to like or want to win at all that I now find myself pulling for. I have watched how they have matured and have come to respect them as drivers whether they drive a Ford, Toyota or a Chevy. Of course, I am still am a big Chevy fan, still a Hendrick Motorsports fan and would like to see Jimmie Johnson win his eighth Cup Championship. I would also like to See Kevin Harvick get back into the same form he was in last season.

Now, I have to admit that waiting for Jimmie Johnson to win a race over the last two seasons has been a little like waiting for John Force in the NHRA to get his 150th win this year. (Yeah, I’m a big Drag Racing fan, too. Been a John Force fan for longer than I care to admit.) It has also been difficult to watch the Chevys be underdogs over most of the last two years and hardly ever be considered a threat to win. (Yes, I still have a heavy Chevy bias, never raced anything but Chevys when I was racing and my work van is a Chevy.)

So, you might be asking, “Are you losing interest in NASCAR racing?”

To that I can state an emphatic, “No!” I just decided to start off this part of the season in a little different way. After all, NBC is taking over the MENCS coverage from Fox Sports through the end of the season and they will have a different take on the way things look and are in NASCAR and, though it might be different, it will still be great coverage.

This weekend they will be running what is referred to as the 550 rules package and that will be one of the biggest differences the teams will face this weekend. I am anxious to see how the Chevys faire and can only hope they make a better showing than they have recently. I am also interested in seeing how Kevin Harvick and the other Stewart/Haas teams run. They haven’t been in victory lane yet this season at all.

Okay, just for fun, let’s say that the two Kyles face off the same way they did at the end of the race last season at Chicagoland. Does anyone really believe that Kyle Bush would be in the same jovial mood he was in last season after he and Kyle Larson got together on the closing lap and, when the bumping, banging and racing is done, Kyle Larson finishes first? Yeah… that’s my opinion, too…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 29, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Sonoma Road Course With A New-Old Twist from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take on the road course at Sonoma. It will be the same old road course with a new twist on the old course layout. Of course, I know you’ve already heard they will running on the old layout of the track which includes the carousel and it hasn’t been used for the Cup Stock Cars of NASCAR in a very long time.

So, what is so special about the race at Sonoma this weekend? Well… I guess you could say there are several things and one of them has to do with Darrell Waltrip. He is retiring from the broadcast booth after this race on Sunday afternoon after almost twenty years in that part of the NASCAR scene. He hasn’t been in an actual race in a long time but has been around NASCAR for most of his life. His first race in what is now called the Cup series was at Talladega in 1972 and he was a very important factor for many years. (I was a fan of his for a long time, too.)

Another reason this race is special, (and not just this season), is because it is a challenging racetrack and demands a lot from the drivers and teams for the entirety of the race. To add to the challenge for the MENCS teams is that this is the first time in twenty years the series has used the carousel part of the track and it is the first time any of the present day drivers have driven the course in this fashion. That should make an always interesting Sonoma Road Course race even more interesting and it could open the door for someone that hasn’t won this season to win and that appears to be the way many are thinking.

Of course, we all know there are those that are expected to perform at, or near, the front and there are those many think WILL win simply because they have won in the past. From this fan’s view, I’m not at all sure which of them might win but I will say there are those I would rather see win than others.

I won’t go into that just yet but, I will say something I never thought I would say. “I’m tired of seeing the same few drivers win,” even though several years back, I liked it when my favorite driver was winning a lot of races. I couldn’t understand, then, why other fans felt the way I do now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that none of my favorite drivers are winning and it could be that the Chevys still struggle to find speed and track position when it counts, even after two years of working with the Camaro.

Yeah, I know they are making progress but I’ve been a Chevy fan for a long time and, in my opinion for whatever reason they chose the Camaro, I still think it was a bad choice and there is something about it that just doesn’t perform like the Fords and Toyotas on the track. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is but I don’t think it’s all about horsepower. That may have something to do with it but there is something about hooking it all up to the track that is different. I’m not an engineer, never claimed to be, but in my amateur opinion something makes the Chevy struggle more than the other two makes, even when they are out front in clean air. (Now that I’ve said all that, maybe it does have “a little” something to do with horsepower after all, even though NASCAR has limited the amount they can have…)

One thing about the race Sunday afternoon at Sonoma is that I think it will be much more interesting than the race at Michigan two weeks ago. The Sonoma track is narrow and yet fast in some areas even though the average speed is under 100 mph for this two plus mile circuit. To this fan, Michigan was a rather humdrum race and, if it hadn’t been for the cautions and restarts, it wouldn’t have had much action at all. I disagree with those that say it was a great race and heard more than one say it was great to see that the leader couldn’t pull away from the rest when they got out front. That didn’t make it interesting any more than the little bit of two and three wide racing there was. That may have been true but there was still a limited amount of passing and a lot of follow the leader.

It is likely that the usual and expected ones will run out front. To name a few would be the most talked about drivers like, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kurt and Kyle Bush. Personally though, this fan would really like to see someone win that hasn’t won so far this season. Though there are many that fall into that category, a few I would really like to see win would be David Ragan, Michael McDowell, William Byron, Alex Bowman and, yes, even Jimmie Johnson. Though the others mentioned are the most talked about, these have a good shot at winning on Sunday afternoon also. It all depends on how the strategies play out and how many mistakes AREN’T made…

Well… at least that’s this fan’s view…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 22, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated