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

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

Click on the S3 media player below to hear the podcast of the article

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Hey everybody and welcome to the JAFV Las Vegas “After Chatter.”

The name of the game for Sunday’s race in Las Vegas appeared to be “overcoming adversity” (if you had the time). My reasoning for this statement is, many faced adversity during the weekend and if they had time to overcome it, they finished well or, at least, better than they would’ve.  If there wasn’t enough time … they didn’t.

Kyle Bush overcame the adversity of a blown engine before qualifying and having to start at the rear of the field to take the win at Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon. In fact, it seemed that most of the teams that finished in the top ten had to overcome some sort of adversity over the weekend  to finish where they did.

I have to admit I certainly was surprised with Kyle taking the race although I knew he would be a strong contender for the win and figured he would definitely finish in the top five. I just never expected he would be able to make it all the way to the front from the back knowing how hard it has been to pass at Vegas in the past. He did a great job and was much more patient than he was in the Nationwide race on Saturday. Although he had some help from other strong contenders on Sunday, he was right there waiting to pounce on the opportunity and took advantage of it for the win.  (Congratulations to Kyle!)

One thing I will say about Kyle Bush in 2009 and it’s very noticeable; he is definitely more patient than in the past (a sign he is maturing quickly as a driver) and that could put him right at the top of the standings at the end of the year, (and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the teams if it does pan out that way.) Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am sure he is going to be in The Chase and one of the ones to beat for the championship.

It seemed to this fan that several of the drivers went into a slight self – destruct mode while making pit stops this weekend. Some were charged with speeding and others just  flat blew their entry into the pits and  their pit stalls when it counted most. (Maybe I should say, when it counted against them the most.)

One thing was certainly noticeable for the entire weekend. During the races of both series, more than one person had trouble with the entry to the pits. It seemed that it was hard to get ‘whoa’d up’ before the beginning of the timing of the pit entry speed. It burned more than a few. (I’ll give a little  more of my opinion about this situation a little later.)

Just for a minute, let’s take a look at some of  the other top finishers.

  • Clint Bowyer used fuel strategy and a slightly better handling car to take the second spot.
  • Jeff Burton finished third and it just goes to show, if you keep on showing up and doing the best you can, good things happen.
  • David Reutimann also had his own set of adversities to overcome, started in the back and finished fourth for the day. It looked pretty bleak when his car developed an oil leak during the race, but they had the time to bounce back from that, too.
  • Bobby Labonte stuck it out and his team performed well as they took the fifth spot. They surprised a lot of people and that’s a good thing heading for Atlanta.
  • Jeff Gordon started twenty-eighth, worked his way to the front and broke the 20,000 laps led barrier. He looked to be a contender for the win but blew his left front tire after blowing the entry to pit road. He finished sixth even with part of his left front fender missing.
  • Greg Biffle had a strong car, but the problems with the Roush engines that affected Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Carl Edwards, caused him to run conservatively possibly costing him a chance to win.
  • Brian Vickers finished eighth and was part of the Toyota engine situation for the weekend.
  • Jamie McMurray ran another strong race but had his own set of  problems as well as running another one of those Roush engines.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr did a great job of overcoming adversity on Sunday. After blowing the entry to pit road and going a lap down he managed to fight back for a tenth place finish which takes a little of the qualifying pressure off him as Nascar heads on to Atlanta.

Other notables that JAFV has been watching with interest are Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart.

  • Marcos just can’t seem to catch a break, but has made strong showings at all of the first three races. I expect to see him in the top five more than once in the weeks and months ahead.
  • Mark Martin has a strong car and team and, if some of the unusual things stop jumping up and biting them, look out … it could mean several wins for him this year and a place in The Chase as well as possibly taking his first Nascar Cup Championship.
  • Tony Stewart and his new team are probably the biggest surprise to Just A Fan’s View this year. I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of his team and like what I see. I don’t think anyone (except Tony and his teams) expected them to perform so well right out of the box. He is only one of the “feel good” stories so far this year. Don’t count him out of contention, his 26th place finish this week was just a little misleading.

Okay, let’s jump back to the trouble with entering into Pit Road for a minute. I don’t have a lot to say about it except, with all of the problems experienced by the racers this last weekend, I am sure Nascar will at least take a look at the situation before the next race at Las Vegas. Personally, I think they will look at slightly extending the area to get slowed down to the pit road speed before they start the timing areas. I think it needs a minor adjustment, but, that’s just me …

See ya next time …

Rusty

©March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Las Vegas: “Just A Fan’s View” Odds Are Vegas Will Be A Down to the Wire Shootout

Click on S3 player below to hear the podcast version of this article.

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Hey everybody and welcome to Just A Fan’s View pre-race chatter for this week.

Judging from the qualifying times, Just A Fan’s View thinks this is going to be an awfully hard race to call, at least before its finished. There are a lot reasons why I think that, but the main one is those qualifying times.

There are so many cars qualified within hundredths of each other that it could either prove to be one of the closest non-restrictor plate races of the year or it could just be another runaway. I am really having trouble deciding who’s gonna win this thing because the cars are so closely matched.

It looks like Goodyear has brought a really good tire and it also seems the drivers think so, too. Judging from the way they qualified, nobody had any hesitation of being committed to throwing themselves into the the turns  and “lettin’ ‘er eat”. The thing that seemed to bother them the most was the bumps down in turns 1 and 2. If it weren’t for them, I think we would have seen even closer qualifying times and more people breaking the track record. Those bumps threw a lot of drivers a curve ball when it came to qualifying. It remains to be seen how they’ll handle them for the race.

The Pole was captured by Kyle Bush with his brother, Kurt, grabbing the outside position of the front row. Were it not for the fact Kyle blew an engine in practice before qualifying, it could have been a blowout by him and a race for second for all the rest. Blowing that engine just means more excitement for us fans because he will be starting in the back on Sunday and we all know he won’t be satisfied staying back there. I look for him to move up through the pack regularly when the race begins and highly expect him to be a contender for the win.

Now…that being said, let’s take a look at some the other drivers that aren’t going to just sit by and wait for him to drive to the front. After finishing first for the first two races of the 2009 season it would be awfully hard to think that Matt Kenseth wouldn’t be right up there fighting for the win at race end. Even though the Roush cars were noticeably slower than many in qualifying, a little thing like that has never kept them from being in the mix for taking the checkered flag.  I look for strong competition to come from the likes of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and yes, David Ragan, too.

A quick look at the top 10 starters shows us just how exciting the end of this race could be. Now, I know that putting too much stock in the way they qualify is a little misleading, but just about anybody in the top 38 could pull out the win.

Just look at some of the drivers that are back in the pack but their qualifying times and speeds are not that far off. It is filled with the likes of  Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr, Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip and Carl Edwards to name just a few. If we just look at the top 32, they are only about 31/2 tenths off the pace or less. The others are only about a half second off the pace.  All of this could change in Saturday’s practice,however.

Some of the surprises  to me are David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. Not that I don’t think them very capable but it is a little different to see them in the top five qualifiers. Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Kasey Kane and Ryan Newman all qualified in the top ten and any one of them could be taking the checkered flag at the end of the race.

Probably the most controversial thing to come up after qualifying was the way that Nascar addresses a car being pulled out of  line and being sent to the rear for one reason or another.  The way they do it just moves the cars forward in the line the car is removed from. Many of us familiar with the Saturday night way of doing things are used to seeing the crossover of positions so that the qualifiers are basically still in order according to speed.

Kyle Bush having to pull out of the Pole position and going to the back actually puts the third fastest qualifier, Jimmy Johnson, ahead of the second fastest, Kurt Bush, in doing it the Nascar way which some think unfair.  I personally like the crossover realignment but I do understand the other way, also. Besides, it is Nascar’s decision and they have been doing it that way for a long time. Still, sometimes looking at changing things around is not a bad thing either.

Well…that brings us  to the hard part this week. Who is going to win?

Honestly, this is a hard one for me to call. I’m writing this without any input from the Saturday final practice, but I’ll give my opinion anyway, (as I always do.)

This week, I see a lot of possibilities. Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin and a host of others. Wow, this is tough but I’m going to pick somebody that is probably unexpected by many. I think it is going to come down to a shootout at the end with about five drivers. Kyle Bush, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson, Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon. Out of those five I think it’s going to be a race to wire and Jeff Gordon is going to break his winless streak in points racing this weekend in Las Vegas.

I know the odds are against me…but…isn’t that what Las Vegas is all about anyway???

See ya next time…

Rusty

©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Fontana: The “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View…

I guess it comes as no surprise that there was at least  a little bit of drama at the end of the race in Fontana. It did, however, come down to a race between two drivers, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon and unless something unexpected happened, they were the only two that really had a chance at winning. Although the last lap wasn’t that exciting, the last several offered just enough doubt as to who was going to win that it did make it worth watching all the way to the end.

Matt Kenseth drove across the finish line and became one of only two drivers to win the first two races of a Nascar season. Considering Matt didn’t have a win last year, I think this would qualify for him having a great start to the new season.

Jeff Gordon finished a very strong second and that was the second week in a row he made a very strong showing.

I have to admit the race was a little better than I thought it would be. It still was not filled with the drama of some races. It did become interesting at the end when it was toss up as to whether Matt or Jeff was going to pull of the win. There was also the fact that Kyle Bush was poised to take advantage of any mistake by either Matt or Jeff and that also added a bit to the drama of the ending of the race.

As a fan, I still have a tendency to lose interest in the middle of the race because, at times, it becomes a follow the leader type of race. It appears to me the drivers are at least willing to just burn up some miles and maintian a certain position. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that part of racing, too. There are very few races 500 miles in length that we find where all of the drivers are running flat out for the 500 miles.

One thing I notice about these type of races is a driver’s intention is to get out front and stay there if possible. Once he is out front, it is easier for him to fall into a rhythm and usually the C.O.T. car handles better out front in clean air.

Michael Waltrip said something interesting in an interview about the C.O.T. that I found interesting. He described the difference of being out front with only a couple of cars in front of him and the difference of being further back in the pack. It seems the more cars you have around you the worse the turbulence and the worse the car handles. That is the important reason why any driver that is able to is going to do as much as he can to get out in the cleaner air and stay there if possible.

All in all, Fontana didn’t have much happen that caused an uproar so there isn’t much to talk about in that area. The only thing that really was going on that made people wonder was whether or not Kyle Bush was going to win all three of  the races for the weekend. He won two of them in one day and had a stellar performance in the cup race on Sunday. I guess he still has something to look forward to putting in the record books someday soon.

Well…California is behind us and it is time to move on to Las Vegas and I’m looking forward to it. We’ll talk more about it later in the week…

See ya next time…

Russ

©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman