NASCAR 2020 The Season That Almost Wasn’t

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Since the 2020 NASCAR Cup season is done and the awards have been given out, this fan wanted to close out the year with his thoughts on the many happenings of the year 2020 in NASCAR. It has not been a fun year for any of us but, NASCAR did manage to pull off a complete season and crowned champions in all three of the main series, Trucks, Xfinity and Cup. That in itself was quite a feat and, in the rearview mirror, showed one reason why NASCAR has been reasonably successful over the course of its existence. In fact, they led the way for other sports to at least try to open their seasons. However, it is important to note that the year 2020 was the season for NASCAR that almost wasn’t.

First of all, the year started off much like normal. It seemed it was going to be another year of racing the schedule with the different rule packages and all was well entering into speed weeks at Daytona. The stands were full of fans, the racing was good and everything seemed as though it was going to be a banner year.

Shortly thereafter… well, you know the story. The pandemic hit and the racing stopped, most of the people of the Untied States were forced to stay home and business, sports and a number of other things came to screeching halt. People were forced to become something they really weren’t all in the name of “safety for people” and “control of the virus.” Life changed for most of us for at least two months and, for many of us, it hasn’t changed all that much since, a full eight plus months later.

During that time in the Spring, people were looking for something to do and watch and someone came up with the idea to broadcast iRacing. At first, it was something many hadn’t been exposed to and it was interesting to see how real their platform was and how real the racing looked, even though there were no cars on tracks anywhere other than virtually and the drivers had their rigs set up in their homes. I suppose the decision to broadcast was made by Fox Sports to broadcast at least something to draw their viewing audience back or fill some time with something instead of so many rebroadcasts.

At first it was a novel idea and people, especially non-gamers, were exposed to something they probably didn’t know existed. I know I was and, since I’m not a gamer, I was completely impressed by the look and virtual racing. Of course there were noticeable flaws but they did show they had done everything they could to make it look completely real.

Admittedly, I was impressed the first week and continued watching just to see how things would pan out. Unfortunately, they did things for TV that made it come off as fake, like celebrating a win as though they were in front of real live fans. It became obvious to me they were apparently doing things for the TV audience and that is when I lost interest. It was just too much to take in, knowing it wasn’t real. I do have to admit I did consider buying a rig but soon found they were much more expensive than I could afford and I did talk myself out of it. You see, I’m a racer at heart and I didn’t want to race to finish second. If I was going to do it, I wanted to have the equipment that would give me the possibility of a winning advantage. Sure, I knew if you got fully involved, there was the possibility of winning money and that was the biggest thing. Next to finding a way to race again and not having to worry about fixing wrecked racecars, the possibility of winning big money did have a major draw to it. Fortunately, common sense prevailed that it would not be a good investment of money I didn’t have anyway.

During that time of virtual racing and then the return to the real thing, I felt NASCAR and the network made some pretty political and unfortunate decisions (which they were entitled to do) but I decided not to join the many that either threatened to, or did leave NASCAR because of those decisions. I don’t regret hanging in there and saw some very good racing whether there were fans in the stands or not although I did take some heat here and there for the decision I made to stick it out.

When it comes right down to it, it was a pretty dramatic and intense rest of the year. The playoffs were about as interesting as any in the past, maybe more so and were filled with unexpected happenings and finishes. Probably one of the biggest surprises to me was Kevin Harvick not making the final four. I thought it might be Denny Hamlin that wouldn’t be in but I was proved wrong. When the final four were established and being a Hendrick Motorsports fan, I had high hopes Chase Elliott would win his first Championship but really didn’t expect it to come about. I really thought Joey Logano or Brad K. had a better chance than the other two but, Chase showed he is made of the right stuff and this fan is sure he has just begun to write his legacy.

Possibly the biggest disappointment to me in the NASCAR 2020 season was how the whole pandemic affected the departure of Jimmie Johnson from the sport. He was a true Champion and sure to be a Hall-of-Famer. I know he isn’t totally finished with racing, but he will be missed next season even though you and I both know there will be plenty of other stuff going on and many new faces in places we maybe weren’t expecting them to be.

I know there are a lot of other things this fan could talk about from this last season but that is enough for now. Besides, you’ve heard most everything more than once already. So, until next season, this will likely be the last NASCAR Fan’s View unless something really big happens deserving comment from this Fan’s View. So, from the year that was in NASCAR 2020, this fan is glad it wasn’t the year that wasn’t…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 20, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Who Will Be The Champ When Phoenix Is Done

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Unlike so many other things in this year of strangeness, we will know the 2020 NASCAR Cup Champ when the race at Phoenix this weekend is done. Can’t say that about a lot of things with such certainty but, this is one that will be known. The problem at the time of this writing is that they have to run the race BEFORE we will know.

2020 has been a year of adapting. It has been a year of, “business not as usual” and trying to make things work even with a bunch of guidelines that had to be followed to the letter or there may be a price to pay. Somehow, NASCAR managed to stick their neck out and try things that hadn’t been tried before – at least not in NASCAR – and even though there are no fans in the stands or, at least very few, the season has progressed to this final weekend of racing for the Cup Championship. In doing so, they led the way for sports to continue even though it was, and is, a slow process. I’m not saying they did everything correctly but they did manage to pull off this season in spite of everything.

So, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Which of the Final four will end up as the Champion?” Any one of the drivers entered in the race can win the race but, which of the Final Four drivers will walk away as the Champion? We all understand that this is one of those weekends where there could be two winners. One could be the winner of the race and the other could be the winner over the other three for the 2020 Cup Championship.

There are many that think Kevin Harvick is the heavy favorite to win the race but, he isn’t in the Final Four. Many expressed their displeasure with the fact he isn’t in the Final Four even though he had the most wins this season. They seem to think there should be some kind of provisional start for him because of his performance throughout the season. Unfortunately, he had a great year but they struggled in the last three weekends of the playoffs and that killed his ability to compete for the Championship. Like it or not, that is the way the season and the playoffs are set up and all involved agreed to those rules and the way the process of elimination works. As Kevin Harvick stated in a post-race interview, at the end of the year, the Championship is won (basically) three weeks at a time. He then admitted their last three races were not good.

As a fan, I have favorites and not-so-favorites in the Final Four and really have no idea which of them might win the 2020 Championship. Performance is one of the keys to their chances but there is also that other important phrase, “Make No Mistakes.”

Without a doubt, it goes without saying they are all going to have to perform. All of them have made mistakes coming up to this weekend BUT, they can’t afford any mistakes this weekend if they want to be the 2020 Cup Champion. This is not a long race and even one mistake in the pits or on the track could be the one thing that kills any chance of being the Champ.

I have heard many say they think the Penske cars have the advantage for this one. Even though Joey Logano hasn’t really had such a stellar season, he has had success at this track before and has had two more weeks to prepare for running in this one than the rest. Of course, I know that doesn’t necessarily mean much when it comes to the race but, it could make a difference for him like it did a couple of years ago. (I just offer that up as a possibility, not a definite.)

Brad Keselowski had a dominating race at Richmond and said he wanted to use the same car at Phoenix. From this fan’s view, that could give him and advantage although that won’t be know for sure until the green flag drops for the start of the race. With him being that confident, it makes me wonder if that may not be an advantage in itself. Personally, I think it will but thinking and doing are two different things and, with the year being what it has been, anything could happen (and probably will.)

The one I am least sure about is Denny Hamlin. Although Denny has had an extremely good year, they have struggled a bit here at the end of the season. As we all know, he was one point ahead of Kevin Harvick and it was right down to the final turn before he knew he had made it to the Final Four. They did have some mistakes and have had some mistakes so that makes me think it is possible he could beat himself when it comes right down to it. Unfortunately, he has done it in the past but, that is in the past. This year he seems quite a bit more confident and he and his team know they have to be as mistake free as humanly possible on Sunday. He has also had success at this track and that could help make him the 2020 Cup Champ when this one is over.

Chase Elliott has shown he can handle the pressure and face adversity when it comes their way at the number nine team. Although they have had some miscues and mistakes over the last few races, they have always seemed to overcome them. Chase has proven himself to be able to handle what ever comes his way and has had some pretty impressive wins when it comes to race day. This is his first trip to the finale but I don’t think that’s going to be a detriment to his chances of getting his first Cup Championship. I think it will more likely be whether or not Allen gives him the car he needs to run ahead of the other three. So far, he has made a lot of good decisions and has left it in the hands of the driver for all the rest. Some think Chase shouldn’t even be in the Final Four but it just goes to show how prepared even the pit crew is for this possible Championship run.

I don’t know who the Champion will be when this one is in the books but I do know we will all know when the race is over. It will likely also be the winner of the race but that isn’t a definite either. After all, this is the year 2020 and anything that can happen, probably will…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 7, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Martinsville Decides The Final Four from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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This won’t be just another short track race. This will be the race that decides the Final Four for the 2020 NASCAR Championship. Well… one of those spots has already been filled and we all know it’s Joey Logano so actually, three spots remain to be decided. Some will say there is only one left to be decided and they could be correct. The truth is, unless a lot of things go wrong, it does look like the cast is set and not much is different than what most thought it would be like. Well… except for Joey Logano.

After a relatively lack-luster season, Joey Logano once again locked himself into the Final Four by winning a race in the round of eight, but I won’t. This fan wasn’t the only one surprised by that, but it did happen and, once again, he doesn’t have to worry about doing much of anything this weekend but showing up. He’s locked into the Championship race and the pressure is on the rest, not him.

Texas started out looking as though it was going to be a total disaster for a couple of the front runners, namely Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. When the race was delayed, the picture for them looked a little bleak and they would have a lot of ground to make up. Then, after three days of rain delays, the race finally restarted and, just about everything that could go right for them, did go their way and both of them ended up in a great place for going to Martinsville. Had things not turned around for them, this weekend could have looked a whole lot different.

So, let’s face it. Last weekend’s race could have turned out a whole lot different than it did and going into Martinsville this weekend might have looked very different UNLESS Hamlin and Harvick hadn’t finished the way they did. The way it looks from this fan’s view is, unless Kevin Harvick has a really bad day on Sunday, I believe he is pretty much going to be in the Final Four. Well, let me put it this way. He would have to have a major failure early on and someone would have to win their way in. The chances of him having that kind of day are very slim from my view and I just don’t think that’s the way the day is going to go for him and the #4 team. I realize I could be wrong but, I just don’t see him not being there.

So, if things go like I expect they will for Harvick, that means there will only be two spots left to get into the Final Four and that my friends is what is going to make this elimination race at Martinsville one of the most intense and pressure packed races ever. After all, this isn’t just another short track race. This is for making it to the Final Four.

So, I guess this is where we should mention Brad Keselowski as one of the top four when this one is done. Yeah, it would be a great place for that, EXCEPT, this fan isn’t so sure he is going to make the cut. He could be but, I’m just not “feeling” it. With the way the standings look right now and going into Sunday afternoon, it could actually be the Final Four but, there are a lot of things that could happen on a short track and mixing up the possibilities wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman are both presently below the cutline and either one of them could benefit from a couple of the others above the cutline having a really bad day. Just thinking about that could make some of the competitors sick to their stomachs. Don’t take this the wrong way but, if the dominoes fall just the right way, both of them could make it in. That my friends is not at all what I think will happen but I do think the possibility is there that either one or both could make a surprise entry into the Final Four. I admit a lot of things would have to go their way for that to happen but, “What If?”

Since I just brought up a really big “what if,” there are a couple of other “what ifs” to consider. “What if” one of the major contenders has an engine failure, or some other type of disaster early in the race and they lose a bunch of points to the ones not expected to move on? “What if” one of the ones below the cutline wins? “What if” Kurt Bush pulls off the win at Martinsville and moves on to the Final Four?

I suppose I could go on listing more “What ifs,” simply because there are a lot of possibilities but I won’t. It is more likely that the ones that have been running consistently at, or near, the top of the standings will continue to do that and there won’t be anything out of the ordinary happen at all.

When it comes right down to it, this fan doesn’t think anything really unexpected will happen unless maybe just one of those below the cutline could move up into the Final Four and it could be by points or by winning. I just reckon we’ll find out when the back and white checkered flag falls and the day is done…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 31, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Round Of Eight Race Two At Texas

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There is one person that won’t be the least bit concerned of how the race this weekend turns out, he’s already in. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about – Joey Logano. After managing to pull off a victory at Kansas last weekend, he and his #22 team have two weeks to work on the car they will bring to the Final Four at Phoenix. There are some that think that now gives him an advantage for the Final Four championship race and it could be a repeat of his run for the Championship in 2018. After a relatively lack luster year in 2020 Cup, that could be the biggest surprise to many that had already counted him out of the running for this year’s Championship race, including me.

As I stated last week, I’m not the biggest Joey Logano fan. That doesn’t really matter all that much when it comes to what other fan’s may or may not think but, even I have to admit his winning last weekend was a very big surprise to me. From my view, he just didn’t look like he was going to make it to the Final Four this season. I thought others would have a better shot but, once again, Joey Logano won a race at the absolute best time he could and he will be one of the one ones running for the big prize in a couple of weeks. If he didn’t have the win, he would have less points than Chase Elliott. (Can you believe it? After all the 2020 NASCAR Cup season has negotiated, we’re actually down to the last three races of the year.)

Logano’s win kinda threw a wrench into the works and really changed the look of the upcoming two races as well as the look of the Final Four. His win definitely knocked someone out of contention for moving on to the final round, but which one remains to be seen. Now it’s up to those below the cutline at the present time to win and make sure it’s not them that won’t be in. Which of them that can over the next two weekends will make the final show but, even that isn’t guaranteed if someone unexpected or outside the round of eight wins. This fan believes that will make the racing at Texas and next weekend at Martinsville even more dramatic and intense along with high emotions just in case something out of the ordinary happens.

So… let’s talk about those drivers below the cut before this race starts. Some thought Chase Elliott would be in the top four but, because of Logano’s win, he is in fifth place in the standings. I admit, that surprises me as much as Logano being where he is. Chase hasn’t been running bad at all but he needs to finish at or near the front in the next two races IF he wants to make it but, a win would definitely remove all doubt.

Alex Bowman just about needs a win or the worst to happen to those above him in the standings. Winning would put him in and make it harder for several of the others, including Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. He has been running consistently but has been lacking track position and speed at times. He could win at Texas or Martinsville but this fan just isn’t sure he is going to make to the Final Four. He is another to watch out for this weekend for taking a win and canceling someone out for moving on.

Kurt Bush needs to win. Without a win I don’t believe there is any way he can make up the gap that opened with his engine failure. He had been running strong and looked and sounded very confident until the engine failure that put him well behind in points. Even though he is still upbeat, like I just said, without a win, he is done for this season a least from this fan’s view.

The two in the most precarious positions are Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski. Depending on how they run this weekend at Texas will dictate just what they have to do next weekend at Martinsville to make the Final Four. Of course, either of them could win this weekend but, there is no guarantee either of them will. I’m not so sure that someone unexpected won’t win this weekend but I’m not going to count either one of these guys out just yet.

I think Martin Truex Jr. this weekend is in the same boat as Joey Logano last weekend. He needs to take a lot of points away from this weekend whether by winning or just winning the stages and finishing in the top three or top five. I find it interesting that two former NASCAR Champions have struggled a bit this season and yet a win has put one of them in the Final Four and the other could be in with a win. (How’s that for drama?)

All of this could become completely out of sync if someone outside the Round of Eight wins and those in the Eight have normal finishes just like any other weekend. Has anyone ever heard of someone named, Jimmie Johnson? He has been known to rule at the Texas track in years past. Oh, that’s right… he hasn’t won in long time and is retiring at the end of this season. I guess that means he doesn’t have a chance of winning this weekend either, huh? Yeah, well, this fan won’t count him out completely just yet…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 24, 2020 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

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

All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated