Nascar At Loudon “After Chatter”: The Rain Works Magic for Logano at the Magic Mile

From this fan’s view, it looked like Jeff Gordon, Kurt Bush and Tony Stewart would be battling right down to the wire and then, the rains came and great strategy by crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, proved to be the winning move that put Joey Logano and the number 20 Home Depot team in Victory lane. It was great call that worked out well and gave Logano his first Cup victory and made him the youngest driver to win a cup race.

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This has been a year of surprises in Nascar and Sunday’s race at the Magic Mile was no different. Some say Joey Logano didn’t deserve to win and that Nascar called the race too soon. In fact, there were a lot of opinions offered concerning the calling of the race for rain, but according to the weather and the rules, they did it just right.

If we really take an honest look at the end of the race, we find more than one person was trying the same strategy. It just didn’t work out for them. Greg Zipadelli made the call to stay out and then coached his young driver to the victory. The thing about racing many forget, or maybe don’t understand is, you do what ever you can to put yourself in contention to be out front when the checkered flag falls.

There are a lot of cliches that float around racing and a few of them could be inserted here. I won’t bore you with all of them but one of the most important ones is, “To finish first, you must first finish.”

If the race had gone a few more green flag laps, Joey Logano would have had to come in for fuel; but there weren’t, so he didn’t and he won the race. Hey, ask anyone who has raced. Sometimes you do have to have a things go your way (some people call that luck.) It may not seem fair when the cards fall as they do, but it doesn’t change the outcome when they do. You take the hand you’re dealt and move on to the next race knowing that the same thing that helps you one time can hurt you next time.

One ‘after chatter’ hot point about the rain-out was what may have happened if the race could have finished. Would it have been Jeff Gordon, Kurt Bush, Tony Stewart or maybe someone else that took the checkered flag? Now, even though it doesn’t matter, it is interesting to consider but, I admit, kind of pointless. I just want to offer my two cents into this discussion. I think it would have been a real shootout between Jeff Gordon, Kurt Bush and Tony Stewart if they would have run the last 27 laps. Depending on how the yellow flags might have fallen at the end, even Kyle Bush, David Reutimann and Jimmy Johnson may have figured in to the mix.

You see, that’s the fun thing about speculation. In our minds anything could have happened and, the way the human mind works, the possibilities are endless. I am amazed at some of the ones I’ve heard. Some even said that Dale Jr was going to pull off the victory, even though he was running thirteenth at the time the red flag came out.

Personally, I don’t think he had any chance of that at all. I think it would have been more likely for Jimmy Johnson to pull off the victory from ninth rather than Dale Jr, only because he led so many laps at the first part of the race. All of those wild possibilities aside, I do think what I said earlier about Jeff, Kurt and Tony would have been more likely if for no other reason than it is so hard to pass at the Magic Mile.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what we think “might have happened.” Joey Logano won because he was at the right place at the right time when the checkered flag came out. He and his team deserved to win simply because of those facts and I congratulate him and the Home Depot Team for what they accomplished.

That about wraps up this fan’s view of the Miracle Mile at Loudon, NH. Next stop is the “Coke Zero 400” at Daytona, FL this Saturday night. I know this might sound like another one of those cliches, but, “I can’t wait for the fireworks.”

See ya next time …
Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© July 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Michigan: Qualifying May Not Say Much About the Race…again.

As a Nascar fan (and former local short track racer), I just can’t seem to understand why they call it “race” qualifying. It seems it could better be named “pit stall” qualifying rather than qualifying for a good starting spot for the race.

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If past weeks tell us anything, it would be that qualifying tells us very little about how the race is going to go. Sure, I know this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this and it sure won’t be the last. It’s just that I put very little stock in the qualifying times especially when the first practice (or practices) don’t tell us that much anyway.

With the length of the race and all of the possible changes that will be made during the final practices, I don’t expect the finishing order at the end of the race to be anything at all like the beginning will be on Sunday.

Past races at Michigan International Speedway speak of long green flag runs and a wide racing surface that gives up to four-wide racing which, in the end, will dictate the winner, (well that and the car that handles the best, gets the best fuel mileage and has the most horsepower.)

Just take a look at the starting lineup. I admit there are some pretty strong cars starting up front, but, I also know there are some pretty strong cars starting in the middle and back of the pack.

Jeff Gordon blew his engine before qualifying, so he was definitely only qualifying for a pit stall. He will start in the back no matter what his qualifying time was. This may not prove to be such a bad thing since Tony Stewart proved last week that starting in the back wasn’t that much of a problem for someone with a fast car and fast pit stops (and the yellow flags falling at the right time). Up to this point, though, Jeff Gordon hasn’t been going fast enough to make me think he is going to just blow by everybody although I will be watching him to see how today’s final practice goes. Besides, one of the large contributing factors for Tony winning the race last week was his number one pit stall. I don’t think many will argue that point.

This week, many of the qualifying times were much faster than the times recorded in the first practice when the cars were in race trim. That may tell us something. Very little of the qualifying trim will actually be used for the race since most people know that that setup is mostly for one lap, (two at the most) and only gives an advantage to them for that period of time. (Once again, I bring up the point of MIS being about long green flag runs and consistent speeds. A couple of fast laps followed by much slower laps doesn’t really help move you to the front very quickly.)

It is ‘just this fan’s view’, but I firmly believe fuel mileage and where the caution flags fall will have much more bearing on the outcome of the race than the qualifying lap times and the lap times in general. Let’s not forget the double-file restarts and the associated strategies that will go along with that. This could prove to be a more interesting race than it usually is.

This is another one of those weeks that the recorded lap times and the way the field lines up will make it hard to predict a winner, but that hasn’t stopped us from making fools of ourselves before (and I don’t think it will stop us today.) Personally, I just like to see how well I can pick ’em, I guess. (Believe me, it’s nothing personal against anyone.) Lately my choices have been mediocre, at best.

I won’t take a lot of time giving you all of the reasons why I think someone is going to do better over the rest, but I have to say some look to have a better chance to win than the others.

Denny Hamlin needs to have some good luck this week and he could take the victory. He looks strong, but he did last week, too. Kyle Bush is going to be right there, also. He is about due to flex a little muscle this week and he is starting on the front row.

I also think the Roush teams are going to be pretty tough this week. Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth in particular are hungry and look pretty tough. Michigan is a place they generally shine and I am sure they want to make a strong showing this weekend.

I can’t make the final choice without mentioning Brian Vickers, Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson. This is what makes it so tough to choose, too many strong cars and teams and many of them will have good pit stalls.

Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t put it off any longer since I know you’re just beside yourselves with anticipation. I really think Carl Edwards could pull off the victory this weekend, but, I know Greg Biffle is running strong too. Jimmy Johnson is looking to make Michigan another track he has won at and that means he and Chad Knaus are out to prove something. Mark Martin has just been plain solid all year and can’t be ruled out as the possible winner.

Let’s see, Carl Edwards…? Denny Hamlin…? Greg Biffle…? Mark Martin…?

Aw, geez! This is way too hard … Oh well, I’m picking Jimmy Johnson … or … oh, never mind…

See ya next time…
Rusty
(all opinions expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© June 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

The Nascar Cup Qualifying Rainout Should Make For An Interesting Pocono Race

Once again the rains have fallen on the Nascar Sprint Cup Series and washed out qualifying for this weekend’s race at Pocono. That means the Cup teams will line up according to owner points. Emotions are mixed amongst the drivers and crews and, although a little time off is a good thing for many, it just makes Saturday’s practice that much more important, (that is, if it doesn’t rain.)

Now, this is Just A Fan’s View, but, this years lack of extra practice sessions makes race weekend practice and qualifying rain-outs even more critical and noticed by the teams, especially the ones that are struggling or have new drivers. It is one less chance they have to get a grip on the tires and setups to help them be competitive for the weekend.

Most all of the guys that are starting at the front have good records at Pocono and, since I am writing this without the benefit of seeing any Sprint Cup practice at all, I can only say it should be interesting to see who has come with the best setup. I do hope the practice takes place today, (last I checked, it was supposed to), and that it helps the guys that are starting out front have a chance to stay out front, (that only seems fair). Otherwise, they will quickly fade and the others will be more than happy to fill in the gaps. For a driver, there is nothing worse than starting in the front and quickly fading to the rear.

The hot topic for this week is the ‘double file restart’. Although there are mixed emotions throughout the garage area, most think it will be a good thing. It is definite that it could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how the breaks fall for each driver during an event, but all seem to agree it will make it more exciting for the fans.

I agree with both sides of the discussion. There will be times when it helps a driver and times it will really burn him… but…that just makes it more like it was at the short tracks they grew up on and the way they do it almost everywhere…except Nascar. It remains to be seen how it will affect everything in the long run, but for now, I think it is a going to make for great racing, especially on the restarts.

One thing is for certain. I’m sure we’ll be talking about the double file restart a lot more later as the season progresses from this point.

Well, I guess there isn’t a whole lot left to talk about today other than who, in our opinion, just might take home the trophy this weekend. I guess we have to first look at those guys starting at the front of the pack. Let’s start with Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson, Kurt Bush, Ryan Newman and Kyle Bush and these guys all start in the first three rows. Wow, talk about an all star line-up in the top six and then there’s Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin.

The top twelve starters are the top twelve performers on the year so far and I don’t think there’s any way they would have qualified in the order they did. It will all depend on how well their setups match the track this weekend.

After last week, I’m a little gun-shy on pulling the trigger on who might actually win this weekend, but that’s okay, I’ll still get to it soon.

I really have to mention some that could perform very well at Pocono this weekend. David Reutimann has shown some real strength in recent weeks and it is very possible he could do well this weekend. He just needs to keep on being consistent and I’m sure it is going to start happening for him and Michael Waltrip Racing. Another in that camp is Marcos Ambrose. He has struggled a bit lately, but I never count him out.

Kasey Kahne, Juan Montoya, Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer are all running well enough to pull off the victory at Pocono but I am just not so sure this is their week. With all of the strength starting out front, it could be a little tougher for them to pull it off.

I do think Dale Earnhardt Jr’s team may have something to prove so, even though they are starting from the eighteenth spot, look for them to move to the front during the race. I’m not so sure they will pull off the victory, but I do look for them to finish in the top ten.

This week I don’t think there will be too many surprises. I think it will be the teams that have been performing well in the last few weeks. This fan’s opinion of the way things will stack up at the end of the race is Kyle Bush, Kurt Bush, Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart running up front and in no particular order other than I think this could be Ryan Newman’s week to take the trophy for Stewart/Haas racing. And the rest of ’em … well … I think it’s gonna be close and … well … Denny Hamlin could be in there mixing it up along with the rest of them…

See ya next time…
Rusty

(All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© June 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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“The Monster” After Chatter from Just A Fan’s View

The ‘Monster Mile’ at Dover, Delaware once again proved to be a race with lots of surprises and also proved why you never consider a race at ‘the Monster’ to be over before the checkered flag falls. One of the biggest surprises was the last 25 laps and Jimmy Johnson driving hard to overtake Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart to take home the trophy. It was probably one of the best race finishes of the year, so far, for Nascar Sprint Cup.

Hi, everyone…welcome to Just A Fan’s View. I really missed the call for picking the winner this week and that’s not all. I really didn’t think the Hendrick teams would fair that well this week; I pretty much figured Dale Jr would finish back in the 20 somethings (where he’s been mired lately), and I didn’t really see the Roush cars being as strong as they proved to be this week. Now that’s not to mention the fact that Kyle Bush and David Reutimann both had problems and didn’t finish anywhere near the top five as I expected.

Personally, I thought this was by far one of the best finishes of the Nascar season. I never expected Jimmy Johnson would be able to show so much strength after having to start kinda mired in the middle of the pack for the last restart. He did show that his winning of three championships has been no fluke. (He very well could take four in a row, especially if he races like he did Sunday afternoon.)

Even though he dominated the race for most of the day, it looked as though he would have a hard time running down Biffle and Stewart, let alone, pass them both. I was impressed with his drive for the victory and I am not usually that easily impressed. He absolutely drove the wheels off the car to catch and pass them. (Yeah, I know he was the dominate car all day but I never really expected him to get by Tony Stewart with almost two laps to go…Wow! It was a great finish to a good race.)

Several of the Roush cars did finish reasonably high in the top ten with Biffle 3rd, Kenseth 4th and Edwards 7th. That really wasn’t too much of a surprise to me even though I didn’t pick any of them to win, I did give them some honorable mention though.

Overall, the Monster wasn’t as hungry as he first appeared. Although he did chew on some cars, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

Jeff Gordon got caught in the pits when a yellow came out which put him one lap down and then they got a little off in the middle of the race and that put him 2 laps down. With a little luck going his way, he very well could have finished in the top five because at the end he was more than able to run with the top five leaders and stayed with Jimmy Johnson for awhile. As it was, he finished 26th and forfeited the points lead to Tony Stewart.

Speaking of Tony Stewart, he and Ryan Newman both finished in the top ten again. With every week, I am more impressed by the performance of the new Stewart/Haas racing. I don’t think anyone expected the teams to run this well this early, (I know I didn’t), and they both look to be real contenders for the Chase. It is definitely a tribute to Tony Stewart’s ability to run a team as an owner/driver and I don’t think we can discount the fact they are running Hendrick equipment as being part of their success formula.

Okay, speaking from a personal point of view now… I have to give a big thumbs up to FOX Sports. They have once again delivered on presenting the races to the fans in an interesting and creative way. They even did a pretty good job of keeping the rain delays interesting… (well… most of the time). I personally like the way they cover the races and the other broadcast teams for the rest of the year have some pretty big shoes to fill. Sure, sometimes they talk too much and sometimes they are way to repetitive, but they did a great job this year and that just continues their record of successfully broadcasting Nascar racing over the last several years. From just a fan’s view, I think they did a great job and I look forward to Daytona and their return to broadcasting the Nascar races in February.

Well, this weekend, Nascar takes on the “tri-oval/road-course” at Pocono. (Well, at least I know that’s what some people say about it.) It should prove to be interesting and, hopefully, it won’t rain…

See ya next time…
Rusty

(All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer.)

© June 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A  Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar Teams Take on the Monster at Dover

This week, Nascar takes on the Monster Mile at Dover International Speedway and, if qualifying says anything about how things will go, it could prove to be a tough day for more than a few. The Monster can reach out and ruin a day faster than you blink and it has already proven it is hungry.

Hi, everyone…Just A Fan’s View takes a look at this weekend’s Sprint Cup Race at the Monster Mile and, somehow, it doesn’t look pretty for some of the competitors so far.

Jeff Gordon took a hard hit into the wall in his qualifying run and gets to start way in the back. Dover is not a place to give anyone an advantage and he has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to make a visit to Victory Lane this weekend. I’m not saying he can’t win, but I am saying he has made the job of taking his second points race victory this year quite a bit more difficult.

It should be an interesting race for more than few reasons this weekend. There is a lot going on. Probably the biggest news is the crew chief change for Dale Earnhardt Jr starting this weekend. There has been a lot of pressure put on Tony Eury Jr this year and now, the pressure is back on Dale Jr, (but we’ll talk more about that in a bit).

One of the other hot topics for the weekend are the lack-luster performances of the Roush teams for most of the year so far and how they hope to turn it all around at DIS. Their expectations should be fairly high since their last time there they did finish well. I’m just not so sure they have the advantage on the C.O.T. handling this year that they had last year. Although this could be their week for a turnaround, I’m just gonna wait and see how things pan out. I just don’t think they’ve turned the corner yet.

Another hot topic is the performance of David Reutimann. This is a track that he has performed well at in the past and it looks as though he is ready for it again this year. As I’ve said many times, I don’t generally take the qualifying times as a guide for who might win or run well, but David also showed some strength in the first practice, too. He, and MWR, may have something to prove to everybody since so many think last week was a gift. Personally, I think they put themselves in the position to win and the circumstances worked out well for them last week. This week they might just show us all they have turned the corner and are ready to win a few more before they’re through.

As strong as the Hendrick and Hendrick associated teams have been this year, it appears they are running into a bit of a headwind lately. They are still the ones to beat, but there are signs that the struggle is equalizing. Jeff Gordon has  had some similar luck to Mark Martin’s early season and all the talk about his back problems makes everyone (except me) look at him as though it’s all but over. I think he is still positioned to be a very strong contender for the Sprint Cup Championship this year. He is just having a little bit of a struggle early this year. (Usually he waits until almost Chase time to have a bad run or two. Maybe this will get it out of the way and he’ll be able to take the lead all the way to Homestead.)

Jimmy Johnson has yet to show us he is going to win his fourth championship in a row, but he can’t be counted out yet, either. It is way too early to tell but there are a few signs of weakness and he has had a little more bad luck so far this year.

Mark Martin is running up front a lot and is thoroughly enjoying his success this year. I think it is great to see him doing so well and, personally, it wouldn’t bother me a bit if he took his first Cup Championship of his long career this year. I don’t think there would be a lot disappointed fans either.

That brings us back to the Dale Jr story. I could be the one that’s most surprised this weekend, but I don’t think he is going to run that much better than he has in the past couple of weeks. I could be wrong, but I just think there is something else going on inside his head. Nothing bad, maybe it’s just he is too busy with all that his popularity requires of him. Look out though, when it turns around for him and the 88 team, it could mean several wins in a row or, at least, several more before the end of the year.

I know that’s saying, and possibly expecting, a lot but, I do think things are going to change for them soon. One thing more about this whole situation … Now, it’s just my opinion, but I think Tony Eury Jr is going to be sleeping a whole lot better and enjoying working at HMS more than he has had the opportunity to do since arriving there last year.

Okay, the last hot topic I want to talk about for this week is everyone’s opinion of how Nascar’s Tv ratings are down and the stands aren’t completely full every week. My opinion for the moment is… “give it a rest.”

I’ve heard all the statements and arguments and I just don’t see it the same way as many do. The last time I checked, Nascar was second only to the NFL as far as Tv sports viewing popularity. Let’s give it some time before we declare the imminent decline and death of Nascar. Things are changing and it will all balance out in the future.

The faces of the drivers are changing and it will take some time to build up the fan base for the newer ones. Some of the guys I used to pull for in the recent past aren’t even racing anymore. I haven’t just completely given up and gone away, though. I’ve just decided to wait, watch and see who catches the attention of the fans in the future. Right now, I have more favorites than I’ve ever had and that is a good thing. (But I also have to admit, I do have a couple of favorites that I like to see win more than others.)

In the mean time, let’s enjoy the sport we love, quit knocking it so much and support it. It is way ahead of anything else in motor-sports, in my opinion, and I still look forward to it every week.

(And, by the way, I haven’t watched that much NFL football since Dan Marino and Jim Kelly retired, so I do understand some of the old favorites not being there. I check in now and again just to see if there is anyone that can take their place. So far, I haven’t seen it.)

Well, that brings us to the part that gets harder and harder each week. That would be who we think is going to win this week in Dover. I haven’t talked much about the Gibbs teams and they are looking pretty tough, especially Kyle Bush. This is his kind of track and I really think he has a good chance to take the checkered flag and the trophy, but I still think David Reutimann and even Matt Kenseth or Jamie McMurray have a good chance too, (yeah, I know those last two are Roush cars.)

I think this weeks race is going to come down to a race between Kyle Bush and David Reutimann. Who actually wins will be determined by who is in front at on the last few laps. If it’s Reutimann with Kyle on his bumper, look out, it could be someone totally unexpected because I think they’re both gonna to be going for it. Frankly, I’m looking for a victory by Kyle Bush this weekend…

See ya next time…
Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© May 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Coca Cola 600 “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View

David Reutimann and his “00” team used the old, “We’re stayin’ out and we hope it keeps on raining” strategy to hopefully propel themselves to victory in the Coca Cola 600 this last weekend. Although it took 2 hours for that strategy to finally play out, it proved to be the winning strategy of the rain-plagued race.

Hi everyone, and welcome to this weeks Coca Cola 600 After Chatter from Just A Fan’s View.

Looks as though I was right when I said the race this week was going to be an endurance event for the fan’s as well as the drivers. It proved to be even more of an endurance run for both of them than even I could have imagined. The rain completely changed the complexion of the competition for the race this weekend from one of hanging in there until the last one hundred laps and then going for it, to one of, “I just hope we’re out front when they finally call this thing.”

I know that may sound like an over simplification, but I just couldn’t resist. After waiting for the rain to stop several times for long delays, Nascar finally threw in the umbrella and decided that trying to continue was pointless. After all, there is always next week. I really felt for the fan’s that stuck it out to the end and they proved, once again, Nascar fan’s are some of the most devoted fans on earth.

It is unfortunate that the rain put such an extended damper on what was to be a very full day of memorial and appreciation for the all of the military veterans that have given so much for this country over the years. The race was supposed to be the topping on the day of remembering and appreciating all who have given so much to all of us. To add to the disappointment of the weekend, and not because they didn’t try to “git ‘er done”, Nascar had to call the race and thereby added to the “uneventfulness” of the event. It is a shame because, with the delays, and if the sky would have cleared, the race could have run into the night and been finished under the lights as originally planned for the day before. Oh well, as they used to say at our local track, “that’s racing”.

I would have liked to have seen what would have really happened if there had been no rain. Because of the way rain caused the yellow and red flags to fall, it totally changed how everyone approached the racing. Some were racing as if there were only going to be 201 laps while others figured to go most of the distance if not the full 400 laps. Some teams guessed right on their setup for the change to a totally day race and some obviously didn’t and struggled from the beginning.

I still think the ones I picked to finish at, or near, the front would have done so without all the rain. All of those predictions are nice to consider at this point, but completely pointless because it did rain, and continued to rain and then rained some more.

I will say this, I bet the commentators and pit reporters are more worn out than the drivers and crews . I’ve had the privilege to run cameras and sometimes work sound over extended periods before (although not for race events) and I bet those guys had more than enough rain and weather breaks to last them a while.

I always found over long events with unexpected delays, the busier you are the faster the time goes, particularly when you’re on a camera. These guys had to put in a full extra day because of the rain. (To top it all off, they had to tear down all of their equipment before they could go home. That’s why I admire the “tech teams” at such events. They’re the ones you hardly ever hear about or see but without them, you wouldn’t hear or see anything on radio or Tv.)

I’m happy that David Reutimann won if for no other reason than it’s his first cup win and he has been running pretty good so far this year. I’m really glad for him and his owner, Micheal Waltrip, because, overall, MWR has been working really hard for three years to make this happen. They took a chance and it worked out for them and it still counts as a win. The great thing is that a few years down the road no one will even know it was a rain-shortened event. When people look at the statistics, it will say David Reutimann won the race and he was driving for Michael Waltrip Racing … that’s it … there will be no mention of the rain in the record book — just who won.

Well, hopefully the weather will clear for the race coming this weekend in Dover at the Monster Mile. I don’t know if anyone wants to sit through another rain delay for a while, (at least, I know I don’t.)

See ya next time…
Rusty

(All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© May 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fans View & Rusty Norman

The Nascar All Star “Event” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway from Just A Fan’s View

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Okay… There are a lot people that write and talk about Nascar Sprint Cup racing out there talking about the “Event” for this weekend and I understand some of their complaints and comments. Many of them don’t speak highly of the “race” this weekend (which is why I call it an “event” in quotes) but I certainly don’t agree with all of the negative comments I’ve read and heard over the past few days.

I think the biggest problem I have with many of them is that I just look at the race a bit differently than they do. From my view as ‘Just A Fan’, this race is an “event” in every sense of the word and  when I look it up in the dictionary, I find it says an event is, “1 a: something that happens, b: a noteworthy happening c: a social occasion or activity.”  I look forward to this event  every year simply because IT IS something different; something that is almost impossible to foretell the outcome of and I definitely believe it is something worth seeing.

I also disagree with the notion that this is a race that makes it hard on the little guys. That may be the case from a someone with a narrow viewpoint, but I really don’t think those “little guys” feel that way about it. I think they show up ready to race see if they can compete with the “big guys” and even show them they can drive as well as they can. In my opinion, this race is about the  smaller names and teams trying to be better known and about the larger names and teams because they are the ones out-performing the others. Personally, that’s why I believe they call it, “The All Star Race”.

I have to tell you, I’ve been a fan of stock car racing since I was about five or six years old. I loved to frequent the dirt track in my home town when I was a kid and my friends and I used to ride our bicycles by some of the homes and gas stations where some of the cars we watched race on Saturday nights were stored and worked on. I was always in awe of those guys. Later, when I got the chance to race, it became even more of a part of my life and it stuck with me. It was always a family event with my dad, mom, sister, cousins and myself. Later on , when we had our own car, it was an event with my wife and daughter along with the rest of the family I just mentioned.

You see, I went racing and attended races because I loved racing. I loved the excitement, the people, the smell of burned rubber and the sights and the sounds of the cars with their thundering horse power. It was a family outing and a time to get together with friends of like interest. We all loved it and still do…its just a little different now. Now, we WATCH much more of it and actually DO less of it.

That’s why I’m a fan of the All Star Race (uh… I mean… ‘event’.) It doesn’t matter to me so much what the others may say about it … I just like it. I like it for all of the reasons I mention here and more. I don’t really mind so much it isn’t a points race, in fact, that just makes it more like the Saturday nights I remember. When we went to the races, we didn’t have any idea who would actually win or who was leading in the points. We saw some great races with all the trimmings…Hot tempers, pay-backs and wheel rubbin’, spark flyin’ excitement…No holds barred… just like the All Star “event” usually proves to be.

Tonight, I have no idea who is going to win but, I’ll be watching and I’ll be watching all of it, from the opening coverage to the interviews in victory lane. I have my favorite(s) and I’ll be pulling for them to take it to the other guys, just like I used to at the home town tracks on Saturday night. I don’t care how much they make for winning tonight and I really don’t care what the other pundits think about tonight’s race. To me, this is about racing… and I love it…

See ya next time…
Rusty

(all opinions and views expressed are strictly those of the writer)

© May 2009 – all rights reserved

Just  A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Update on: Nascar at Bristol… the “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View.

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Hello everyone, and welcome to the Bristol update from Just A Fan’s View. I’m really glad you could be with me today…

Well, there is absolutely no other way to put it, Kyle Bush dominated the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, (that’s a nice way saying, “He kicked butt at Bristol”) . It seemed he could move through the pack at will and was hardly challenged at all, although the final laps were run under the “green-white-checker” rules. It was pretty obvious to this fan that he was going to take the checkered flag and the trophy, even before the final green flag dropped. He was just too strong.

Noticeably absent from the top ten were the Roush teams. The only Roush Ford team finishing in the top 15 was Carl Edwards and he finished 15th. It looks as though what I said about the Fords being a little deficient came to pass even more evidently than I suspected it would. I am sure they were terribly disappointed overall as an organization, (and who could blame them?) It’s only the 5th race of the season though, so I guess we’ll will have to see what happens over the next 4-6 weeks to determine if they are going to struggle most of the year. (Frankly, I don’t think it will be that way, but, stranger things have happened.)

From my viewpoint, there weren’t any outstanding controversies this last week so there isn’t a lot of noticeable drama going on behind the scenes in Nascar. It seems that so far this year, it’s just been good hard racing, peppered with a few feel good stories.

Unfortunately, some of the feel good team stories we started out with this year at Daytona are not turning out as many had hoped and some of the new team owners are feeling the pinch of finances and not qualifying for a couple of races in a row. My heart really goes out to those guys and I know that many are still pulling for them to be able continue on in Sprint Cup Racing.

Well, the Gibbs and Hendrick teams are really showing a lot of strength here at the beginning of the year. It remains to be seen whether their strong starts to this season carries all through the season.  There are a few others standing in the wings waiting to show what they can do in the coming weeks.

It is my opinion we will see at least 4 or 5 of the top ten in points right now in the running for the top spot in the championship at the end of the year, but, we’ll talk more about that in coming weeks. It is way too early to start thinking about that with only 5 races in the books. A lot can still happen in a lot of ways by the time we start the actual chase.

Well I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Martinsville this weekend.  I’m hoping, along with a lot of others, the weather holds this weekend so that everyone gets at least a chance to qualify. I really want to see who gets the pole and who races their way into the race this week. Qualifying is definitely important in several ways for Martinsville. Although I know how the system works, I’m hoping for good weather.

See ya next time…

Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Bristol: High-Banked, Short-Track Excitment!

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Hello again everyone, and welcome to Just A Fan’s View for this week. My name is Russ and I am so glad to be with you, today.

Let me start right off by saying, I’ve already been corrected by one my reader/listeners in what I said about Darlington a couple of weeks ago. It is one of those situations that, after the fact, I agree that it did sound as if I had already closed the track down but that’s not quite what I meant. When I said, “The way Darlington used to eat up tires and the fastest way around used to be way up against the wall”, and “In its day, that left a lot of cars with the well known Darlington stripe”, it led some to believe that I meant the track was no longer being raced on. I can see that, now.

What I should have done is left out the words “used to”. If I would have done that there probably would have been no confusion. As it is, let me simply say that I was talking of Darlington in its Glory days; when it had no ‘safer barriers’ and the stands were filled to capacity. Now, don’t misunderstand me, but to this observer, it seems as though it has seen better days but it still has great races and I always look forward to it.

Okay, I admit that was a little confusing and with that out of the way, let’s move on to Bristol.

I’ve only been to Bristol, TN one time and, unfortunately it wasn’t during a race weekend. I think the track at Bristol is in a beautiful area and one day I hope to go there again, hopefully on a race day.

There’s a reason why it is so popular. It has all the things that make short track racing so popular and appealing to the fans. Things like being able to see the whole track from about any seat in the house. Then there’s those high banked turns (36 degrees) transitioning onto 16 degree banked straights making for great speed and action and, of course, the beatin’ and bangin’ that causes short tempers, hurt feelings and sometimes, paybacks but always great racing.

Hey, I’m just a fan, but I used to race and I understand the difference between “just racin'” and intentionally being put out by someone. Mostly what we see at Bristol is just good hard racing but I have to admit, sometimes a driver or two (that’s and understatement in case you’re wondering) have been known to get very impatient.

Mark Martin took his second pole in a row. Although I don’t put much stock in qualifying when it comes to race outcomes, it is interesting to note Mark Martin has been showing some strength this year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if he can get rid of the gremlins that have been hounding him he will be in victory lane and he will be there more than once this year.

I found it interesting how the qualifying went yesterday. Several of the ones I thought would be in the front of the pack are in the middle or the back of the pack. Drivers like Kevin Harvick starting 30th and Kurt Bush starting 32nd, Matt Kenseth 33rd, Dale Jr 34th, even Carl Edwards starting 38th. I know any one of them has the ability to move up through the pack and take the checkered flag, but, they do have their work cut out for them.

As a fan, I could go on and on about the race this weekend but, I don’t think it’s necessary this week because everybody is going to do that. I’d like to get right to the part where I choose the way I think the race is going to end and who is going to win and that’s what I’m going to do.

I think this is going to be a weekend that the ones that start up front are going to stay up front, that is, unless something unexpected happens. Let’s face facts. If someone starts in the back they basically start a half a lap behind. Unless they can break free of the slower traffic around them, there is a pretty good chance they could go a lap down to the leaders fairly quickly. The emphasis this week is going to be, stay cool, stay out of trouble and don’t have any (I emphasize, any) bad pit stops. It is a 500 lap race so the idea is to stay consistent and be patient.

I decided to wait until after the second practice this weekend to declare my choice for winning. I do think it is going to be an interesting race with several long green flag runs and several cautions.

If someone gets too high look out because they could collect a few innocent victims after picking up all of that rubber that accumulates as the race progresses and they spin down in front of the field.

So who do I think is going to be taking the trip to victory lane this weekend. You just had to ask, didn’t you? Well, here goes…

This is a week that I’m just not sure. Last year, Jeff Burton won the spring race and only led the last two laps. In the past, winners have come from just about anywhere in the top of the starting order. Whoever has the best luck this weekend is the one that is going to win. My choices for the top five at the end of the race are Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush and (who else) Jeff Gordon. There are few others I think will figure in at the end like, Jimmy Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and even Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne.

But, Bristol is just too hard to call simply because it is short track racing and anything can happen and probably will. I think this is the weekend that Mark Martin is going to throw off the gremlins and finish in the top five but I just don’t think he is going to be the winner. Kevin Harvick looked good in the final practice and so did Jeff Burton. It looks to me as though the Fords are struggling a bit this weekend so it is hard for me to choose one them even though Greg Biffle or Jamie McMurray could surprise me. That being said, I don’t think so. It could also be Jimmy Johnson or Kyle Bush, but, as I said I just don’t think so.

So who is it going to be???

I think Jeff Gordon is going to finally end that no win streak this weekend. He is a five time winner at the track and has been running strong at the end of every race this year. I think this is his week to take the trophy in Victory Lane.

Okay, now the mold is set and it just remains to see how everything turns out…

See ya next time…

Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar fans are…_____ (Insert your own word or words.)

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Hi everyone and welcome to Just A Fan’s View for this week. This is an off week for Nascar but not an off week for me. One thing I like about Nascar is there is always something to talk about and this week is no different. I’ll probably hit on a couple of things about the upcoming race in Bristol a little later, but first, I want to talk about Nascar fans. (After all, that’s kinda what we’re about here.)

Go ahead … in the title above, insert your own word (or insert your own words). There is no wrong answer, (well … almost none, anyway). There are so many possibilities. That’s because Nascar fans, true Nascar fans, are the best fans of any sport I know. I don’t just say that, and I don’t necessarily agree with every view they have, but, I do know they are great fans and dedicated to the sport they love.

Look, I’m a Nascar fan and I’m proud of it. I am not one of those fans that is able to attend a race in person, but over many years, I have followed every race I could that was, or is, telecast and I try my absolute best to keep up with all that is going on in Nascar. I also try to keep up with my favorite drivers (and, by the way, that list is growing all the time). Of course, I have ones that are on my not so favorite list, too.

I have loved racing since I was a kid, (man that was a long time ago) and I have raced everything I could from bicycles to go-karts and, yes, local short track stock cars on Saturday nights. I love to go fast and turn left. (I didn’t actually get a chance to do Road Courses or Off-Road, but I know I would have liked them, too.)

For a very short time, I even tried a little drag racing. (Unfortunately, it was street racing.) It didn’t take me long to learn that was not the place to race. I wasn’t afraid for myself nor the possible danger I may have been putting myself in, but, I found myself concerned with the innocent people street racing puts in harm’s way. It only takes the blink of an eye for things to go from fun to disaster. (I was fortunate to never have gotten a ticket and no one ever got hurt in what we did, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened.)

These days, I still like to watch drag racing occasionally on TV but I still don’t take it to the streets. I have a lot of respect for drag racers though. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here because I like the new guys, but, I well remember the “old guys” like Garlitz, Prudhomme, Kallita and, yes, even the great Shirley Muldowney and others. I still root for John Force and Kenny Berstein when I have a chance to watch and their involved. (I have to admit, I always did think the guys in those drag boats were crazy though. I still don’t know how they keep them from taking off like airplanes more than they do.)

(Ah, but I digress into a bit of reminiscing. Its time to return to the subject of Nascar and Nascar fans.)

What do you think of when you think of Nascar fans? What is the first word, or words, that come to mind? What would you insert in the blank of the title of this article?

Well, if you don’t mind, I would like to insert a few words just to get started. See if you agree with any of these:

Nascar fans are: passionate, supportive, committed, outspoken and loyal. These are just a few of the words I immediately think of when I think of Nascar fans.

Some others are: faithful, die-hard, narrow-minded (when it comes to supporting their driver over and above all logic) and opinionated, sometimes to an extreme, (also defying all logic). (Hey, we’re all human …)

Do you agree with any of these? My sense is that you probably agree with most, or all, of them in some way or other. Now that doesn’t mean you agree with all of the above just because you’re a Nascar fan, but it does mean you can relate to at least one or two.

I know I am not alone when it comes to being a Nascar fan that used to race at a local short-track that wasn’t sanctioned by Nascar. I have some good friends that I used to race with and most are Nascar fans of one degree or another. We loved what we did and we still have a bit of it in our blood and that’s probably why we still watch the races. (In fact, some of them still race or have kids that race, now.)

Taking all of that into consideration, I know when I watch a race I look at it differently than someone that has never been in a race car. Because I have had to consider some of the strategies involved to bring home the trophy, as I watch, I wonder what my favorite driver or team is considering as events unfold during the race.

From the stands, fans generally look at the race, (or a game) in a different way. We all know we pull for the home team when it comes to stick and ball sports and, when it comes to racing, it is always noticeable when the crowd favorite takes over the lead or wins the race. The crowd goes wild with enthusiasm. When the villain (or the one the fans consider as the villain) has problems of some sort or gets put out of the race in some way, once again the crowd responds enthusiastically and loudly with cheers.

In my opinion, that’s why Nascar has such a hard task before them when it comes to keeping the fans happy – because we all have our own opinions as to how we think situations should be handled. I think they do a really good job and, I have to admit, I have been more than willing to criticize their decisions on more than one occasion, but then, what real fan hasn’t? (I don’t suppose you’ve ever yelled at a referee, have you?)

I know if I took a survey of opinions on some of the different things that have changed or had decisions made concerning a race situations in Nascar, I would get any number of answers and opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I think that is great and I know I am opinionated when it comes to some of those decisions, but I am certainly glad I’m not the one people look to to make the final decision. I just don’t know how neutral I could be on a continuing basis.

That’s why I appreciate Nascar and the job they do. As a fan, I know they are taking much more into consideration than it may appear on the surface. They consider all sides and, in particular, The Fans!

Like I said earlier, I’m a Nascar fan and proud to be one, just like I’m proud to be an American and I am extremely proud of our men and women in the military. I’m proud of the drivers, teams and fans and the way they take on helping out people in need of all ages and situations. Yeah, I know the competitive spirit is always there, but so is the compassion for others.

I am glad Nascar appeals to such a diverse cross section of people around the nation and world and that we can all come together for the greater good when it counts.

Okay, its time to move on. This weekend Nascar heads to Bristol, TN. It is a fast, high banked short track that often yields unexpected finishes along with hot tempers and hurt feelings. What else should we expect from short track racing?

Although according to some reports, the economy has slightly affected pre-race ticket sales, I fully expect the stands to be extremely full. This is one of the fans’ favorite tracks and I expect this weekend to yield a great race along with some real short track excitement and temperament.

See ya next time …
Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Update on: Nascar at Atlanta, the “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View

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Well, Atlanta did prove to be a place full of surprises this last weekend. It appears the track did yield unexpected results this time and nobody expected to have as much trouble with handling as they did. It wasn’t the tires, though, as Goodyear brought good tires tested and proven to perform at the track. When all was said and done it was just the warm weather and the old worn out track surface.

I think Kurt Bush called it right in his after-race interview in Victory Lane at Atlanta Sunday. He said the old place drove a lot like old Darlington. He wasn’t alone in his feelings as several of the racers expressed similar sentiments and they were obviously referring to the way Darlington used to eat up tires and the fastest way around Darlington was way up against the wall. In its day, that left a lot of cars with the well known “Darlington Stripe” and this week it was the “Atlanta Stripe” that left its mark.

As I stated in the pre-race chatter, I knew Kurt Bush would be strong this weekend. The reason I didn’t expect him to come away with the win was because of the engine problems he had in the previous weeks. I just didn’t have confidence in the new Dodge engine under the hood. Well, not only did he have the horsepower and reliability, but handling-wise, he and his team “put a whoopin'” on the rest of the field. He was very consistent all race long and, even when they got slightly off during a green-flag run, they quickly got back to form on the next pit stop. I think this weekend proved that Kurt is a force to be reckoned with for The Chase and the maybe even the  championship this year. Hat’s off to the Penske teams.

I still believe, if Mark Martin ever gets rid of the gremlins that have been hounding him for the last few weeks, he will definitely be in Victory Lane soon and probably more than once. The last couple of weeks it was engine problems. This last weekend it was a tire that took him out of contention. Until that time, he looked to be in the mix for the run to the checkered flag at the end. To say he was disappointed is a major understatement, although, he didn’t seem as confident going in as one might have expected with his performance in practice and qualifying.

Just A Fan’s View can’t, and won’t, overlook the way Brian Vickers has performed this year in his Red Bull Toyota. Except for several glitches along the way this year, Brian has made a a strong showing every week. I expect he will be in victory lane in the very near future. If it hadn’t been for the yellow flag at the end of the race, it would have been an interesting finish, since both he and Kurt were running the exact same line. (Oh well, that’s life in the “shoulda – woulda – coulda” lane.)

Without spending a lot of time on a specific discussion of who finished in the top ten or so, there are some drivers that we just can’t ignore. If you look at the finishing order, you will once again see Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer,Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. These guys have been showing up every week ready to race. They may not be making the headlines during qualifying, but they are definitely in the discussion at the end of the race.

As ‘Just A Fan’, I am impressed with the way Tony Stewart has performed with his brand new team so far this year and have been surprised at how Clint Bowyer quietly seems to finish near the front consistently with his. These teams are strong and I am surprised at how well they seem to be performing out of the box, (although I probably shouldn’t be.)

Jeff Gordon is at the top of the points chart again and has been consistently knocking on the door at the end of the races. I think he will end his no-points-win streak soon. Who knows, it could be at one of the short tracks in the next two races, (maybe even both.)

The brunt of the “after chatter” this week was mostly about how the unexpected warm weather seemed to affect the handling of the cars severely for the weekend. I, along with others, think that many of the teams expected the race to be similar to Las Vegas since the tire was similar to what they used out there. No one was blaming Goodyear or the tires for the slippin’ and slidin’ but, they didn’t have a lot of good things to say about the track. It’s just worn out.

The second main subject was the empty seats in the stands. I am sure Nascar and AMS are taking a good look at the situation and only they know how that will turn out. Times are tough and I don’t want to speculate.

In listening to the drivers in numerous interviews, it seemed they knew it was going to be an uncomfortable ride all day long and many said they were just going to go out and try to have a little fun. I’m sure they tried, I just don’t know how many actually had that much fun.

Well, as I’m sure everybody already knows, Nascar is taking a week off, but we’ll be here for the weekend blog/podcast. At the present I don’t expect there to be any “After Chatter” planned for the mid week. I do have a special feature I’m planning for this weekend though and I expect it to all work out. No matter what, we’ll have something for you…

See ya next time …

Rusty

© March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar At Atlanta: Will Nascar’s Fastest Track Yield Unexpected Results This Time?

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Hi everyone, and welcome to this weeks edition of Just A Fan’s View pre-race look at Atlanta.

Is it possible that the great weather predicted for Atlanta this weekend could foretell of totally unexpected results for the Race on Sunday? I know it is just a coincidence, but, I can’t remember a time I have been in Atlanta and there wasn’t a threat of rain.

Now, to be truthful, I don’t spend a lot of time in Atlanta but it seems that when I have been there on business, or traveled through on my way to somewhere else, it usually rains; (or at least threatens to.) This weekend looks to be a very comfortable and rain-free weekend.

The qualifying for the Kobalt Tools 500 showed, once again, Mark Martin and Kurt Bush have their qualifying game down. I just wonder if they can carry their front row qualifying spots all the way to victory lane. I know both of them know how to win, they just need a few more things to go right on race day. (Neither one of them has had very good ‘racing luck’ over the last few races.)

This week is going to be tough to call just as Las Vegas was last week. You see, as a Nascar devotee and fan I don’t put much stock in they way the drivers qualify. There are times when qualifying does tell a story but, when it comes right down to it, I look at other things.

One thing I watch at Atlanta is who runs consistently in the middle of the track and at the top while maintaining a good consistent lap time. To me, the single lap times, and the first couple of laps on new tires don’t matter much; (unless it is near the end of the race and someone on brand new tires is trying to catch someone on old tires.) I do think the winner this week will prove this out and it will all depend on when and how the yellows come out near the end of the race.

Just A Fan’s View thinks it is better to be watching the times of the drivers during the practices and put less importance on the qualifying times. At Atlanta, the person that consistently finds a line to run faster than the rest is the person that will end up out front, especially as the tires wear out.

That is what I will consider when it comes down to the drivers I pick to finish in the top five, (and unfortunately, I won’t have input from the final practice session before this writing.) I will be paying attention to it though and I know it will make a difference in the finishing order.

I guess rather than drag out this conversation for an extended period time, we should get right to how I think things are going to go this weekend.

If we look at the first practice, we find several that had good practice times and speeds but didn’t qualify all that well. That is just the type thing I am talking about, and looking for, at Atlanta. Let’s just look at few:

  • For the second week in a row Mark Martin finished at the top of the chart in the first practice. He actually followed it up by taking the pole position in qualifying. If he can have a consistent run and avoid the engine failures of the last two weeks, he has a very good chance of finishing out front.
  • Kevin Harvick posted the second fastest practice speed in the first session and has been making strong showings at the first three races this year. He is sure to finish strong if things go as usual for him this weekend.
  • Brian Vickers has been impressive over the first three races this year. He just hasn’t been able to be there  at the end. That could all change this weekend, (and it remains to be seen if the Toyota engine problems show up again this weekend.)
  • I just can’t rule out Kurt Bush this weekend. He has been extremely strong over the first three races and for the second week n a row has qualified on the front row. His practice times weren’t that bad either.
  • This could be the week for Jamie McMurray. Of all the qualifiers, he was the only one that might have beaten Mark Martin out for the pole position. Jamie has also made strong showings every weekend so far this year. He just needs a break or two to go his way and that could be all he needs.

There is one thing I want to point out about qualifying. If you listened closely to the interviews with the drivers after their qualifying runs you heard the top qualifiers say their cars were basically out of control. They may have fast but they were not comfortable. That’s another reason I don’t want to put a lot of stock in the qualifying times for telling who may win the race.  I don’t think a driver wants to drive on the edge for the whole race. They need to have at least a slight comfort level and feel for the car and that could be what makes the biggest difference at the end of the race.

Okay, enough for now. It’s time for the Just A Fan’s View choices for the top five. This is another week that is tough to call but, I’ll give my best shot.

There is no way to rule out at least the possibility of a Roush team finishing up front other Jamie McMurray. If it does happen I think it will be  Greg Biffle although I can never count Carl Edwards out of the mix.

The Hendrick teams could all make a good showing at the end of the race also and that means we have to consider Jimmy Johnson, Dale Jr and Jeff Gordon.

There are a lot of possibilities this weekend, but, here are my picks for the end of the race. I think it is going to be a down to the wire finish.  Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Bush and Greg Biffle are all going to be there mixing it up at the end. As to who is going to win, well, that is a much harder question. Since I have to make a choice right now without the benefit of seeing the second practice session, I going to go way out on a limb and pick Mark Martin to come home with the trophy for the Kobalt Tools 500.

There, I’ve made my choice and all that remains is to see who actually pulls off the victory.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just a Fan’s View and Rusty Norman