Nascar at Texas from Just A Fan’s View

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Hi everybody and welcome to Just a fan’s view for this week …

Texas Motor Speedway is the home for Nascar this weekend and some are much happier than others to be there. Considering their performance at the two short tracks, the Fords have to be happy to be back on the 1 1/2 mile speedways. They just didn’t show much strength at Bristol and Martinsville. This weekend should prove whether or not the Fords have just fallen behind or if they just don’t do short tracks well.

A quick look at the qualifying yields some interesting results. The Fords have three in the top five and five total in the top fifteen. The Toyotas have one in the top five and four in the top fifteen while the Chevys also have one in the top five and four in the top fifteen. The Dodges have the fewest with none in the top five and two in the top fifteen.

That says a lot about qualifying but once again, doesn’t say much about how the race is going to go.  After the first practice it was interesting to this fan where the Hendrick cars were in the speed charts.  Although I don’t put much stock in the first practice, all four were in the top eight. If we only look at the first practice, it would seem they have a pretty good grip on the top ten but, there was plenty time remaining for the rest of the field to catch up in the other practices (and there was still plenty of time for the Hendrick cars to possibly mess things up). All of this would be interesting to consider if only there weren’t those other two practices to consider.

After the other two practice sessions for The Cup racers, things became a little more mixed than they were earlier. It seems that some of the ones that were running strong early on are now a bit further back in the pack. To Just A Fan’s View, that makes  for interesting scenarios for tomorrows race.

It is my opinion it is going to be a typical race at the Texas Motor Speedway. High speeds and long green flag runs with track position made up in the pits with different pit strategies making the difference at the end of the day.

Once again, it is going to come down to the end of the race before the winner is really known. Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Bush look awfully tough for taking the checkered flag this weekend and I can’t discount the performance of  Denny Hamlin. It looks to me as though the Gibbs teams could be a major factor at the end of he race.

I can’t rule out the Roush guys either. Once again, Jamie McMurray comes to mind along with Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards. They look to be strong as they always do at the 1 1/2 mile tracks and, in particular, at Texas. I also know that we can’t rule Greg Biffle out of the mix either, but it does appear he is struggling a bit so far.  That doesn’t mean he won’t be there at the end, it just means during practice he wasn’t quite up to the speed of the other guys.

Well, I know I could probably mention every other driver in the lineup as well, but I really don’t want to go there. Several of the teams are on a mission this weekend and anything could happen. I just don’t think Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Bush are going to give the other guys much of a chance. Both looked very comfortable and very strong in the last practice sessions and, barring anything unforeseen, I expect them to be the ones battling it out at the end.

I have mixed emotions about the other ones that will be in the top five at the end of the race, but that won’t stop me from giving you my picks anyway. The top five, the way I see it, is going to be a race between the Fords, Toyotas and Chevys. I don’t see the Dodges being in the top five but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to run well. I mean, look at what Kurt Bush did in Atlanta.

Although David Reutimann has the pole and good practice times, I don’t see him being there in the top five at the end. I pick him to be more in the top ten. I do believe Jeff Gordon will finish in the top ten also, but he is the one that may surprise me at the end, (I just don’t know for sure).

So here it is, my picks for the top five. I think Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin are going to be following Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Bush across the finish line at the end of the race. It’s a hard one to call but I do think Jimmy Johnson is going to take home the trophy with Kyle Bush in close pursuit.

See ya next time…

Rusty

©April 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Martinsville “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View

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Hi, everybody and welcome to the Martinsville After Chatter from Just A Fan’s View…

Martinsville lived up to the expectations of short track excitement and, no, the guy I picked didn’t win. (Oh, but you already knew that didn’t you. Hey, it was just my opinion considering the available information at the time.)

Oh well, all in all, it was an interesting race chock full of what every Nascar fan likes about the short tracks included in the schedule. There was beatin’ and bangin’ and all of the other things that go along with fast and tight, short track racing like short tempers and paybacks. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole race even though there were a couple of longer green flag runs that came close to being humdrum, but fortunately,  it never really got there.

I won’t spend a lot of time today talking about the race — it was a great race — but I would like to mention a couple of things that caught my attention in particular.

The last laps and restarts between Jimmy Johnson and Denny Hamlin were every bit about why people like short tracks. The drivers have to be aggressive and that’s exactly what both of them were. Both of them took what the other wasn’t willing to give up. It was a great finish.

But that wasn’t what caught my attention, either. It was after the race when Denny Hamlin was being interviewed about the end of the race action between him and Jimmy Johnson. I was not only impressed but thoroughly surprised at the level of maturity he has reached. In the past, (and this is just my assessment of his reactions), he had a tendency to blame everybody and everything for his failure to win. This time, it seemed he enjoyed his performance, (which he should have), and simply stated that both of them were going for the same real estate in typical Martinsville, short track fashion and the next time, if the opportunity presents itself and the roles are reversed he will probably do the same thing that Jimmy did. In fact he said he would definitely do it.

His reaction impressed me and I have more respect for him than I did before. It also makes me look forward to the next short track race and hope the two of them are right in there, mixing it up at the end.

Well, another thing thing that caught my attention on Sunday was the overall dominance of the Hendrick teams and equipment at Martinsville. All four of the Hendrick racing teams finished in the top eight. Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman were in that mix as well, (and aren’t they also running Hendrick equipment.)

From this fan’s view, I think Stewart/Haas racing has been the biggest surprise so far in the early season. I won’t say I didn’t expect Tony’s teams to perform well, I just didn’t think they would be performing as well as they have so early in the season. It has been a pleasant surprise so far.

It has also been interesting to note the absence of the Roush cars near the front at the end of the last couple of races in particular. Jamie McMurray’s 10th place finish was the best of all the Roush teams this week. To me, that’s a bit surprising. I do expect to hear more from them in the coming weeks at the mile and a half race tracks in particular, which is one of their strengths.

This is Just A Fan’s View observation, but, this has been an interesting year so far. A year that started out with a lot of question marks has proved to be one of opportunity for some, disappointment for others and one that has actually exceeded expectations in many ways. There have been plenty of fans and plenty of cars, although some have not been as competitive as they would have liked to be I’m sure. It has been a time for some newer faces to show they have what it takes to be competitive at the Cup level of Nascar while others have managed to just hold their own.

From my view as ‘Just A Fan’, I have been pleasantly surprised by the efforts of Nascar, the tracks and the fans, (although I probably shouldn’t have been.)  Nascar is a great sport and I am proud of all involved, whether it be the owners, drivers, team members or fans. To me, Nascar is one of the brighter spots in a time of great frustration and anxiety.  I am glad they are as strong as they are and I am glad they all do what they do so well.

Well, next stop is Texas and I can’t wait…

See ya next time …

Rusty

© April 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Martinsville: More Short Track Fun…

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Hi, everybody. My name is Russ and I’d like to welcome you to the  Martinsville pre-race for this week … and this is  “Just A Fan’s View”.

With all of the rain problems this weekend it could either make for one of the most interesting, or dull, spring races at Martinsville. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this one is really hard to determine just how it is going to turn out. It would be nice to have been able to have qualifying and the final practice, but, it wasn’t meant to be.

As everyone already knows, that means the  field lines up according to owner points and that doesn’t tell much about how the racing will actually go.

One thing I can say is it sure looks as though the lineup will offer some advantage to those up front even though they may not be prepared to run up there at all. In looking at the lineup though, all of the ones in the top ten know how to get around the Martinsville track and any one of the could win in the end. In fact, if you look at the top twenty, you find most of them could pull off the victory themselves.

It’s weekends like this that makes trying to decide who will win kinda like a driver who’s car just isn’t quite where he wants it to be. He’d like to have about twenty or thirty more laps to try something different. That’s the way it is for me, too. I would like a little more info from the last practice (that they didn’t get to have) so I could better judge who got a better grip on the track. Well, it just ain’t gonna happen this week so I’ll just have to make the best of it…

There are a few things to consider before making a choice for the winner of the race this weekend. One of the most important things is that the track is going to be completely green. If there was any rubber on it, it’s completely gone by the time of this writing. One of the good things is that the sun is going to shine on Sunday and the temp will be in the comfortable upper 60’s. That should make it interesting, especially when they hit the first turn after the green flag drops. I’ll be looking to see how certain drivers do after about twenty or so green flag laps. I do think we will find who has a pretty good setup after the first 30 -40 laps of green.

With Jeff Gordon starting on the pole and having the number one pit stall, I’d say he is starting right where he would have wanted to even if they would have had qualifying. What will make the whole thing interesting is that Kurt Bush is starting outside pole and Kyle Bush is starting outside second row. As strong as the Bush brothers have been in recent weeks, it makes a whole lot of difference for them being able to start up front and have better pit stalls, too, even though Kyle says Martinsville isn’t one of his better tracks. Who knows, starting up front may just be what he needs to turn his luck around at the track.

Oh well, enough beating around the “Bush-es” … it’s time to make the choices for this weekend.

As I look over the top 20 starters, I see a number that could end up in victory lane, (that’s what makes this race a hard one to pick the winner in.) I see names like Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Brian Vickers to name a few and any one of them could win.

Closer to the front, we see drivers like Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Bush, Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon. The problem I have is not enough data to make a good pick so, I guess I’ll just have to fly by the seat of pants.

Going on past performances at this track I just about have to choose one of the Hendrick teams. Even though there are others I think could show up and take the checkered flag at the end I still think it’s going to be a race between Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

So which one do I pick… hmmm … it’s a tough one …

Well, I pick Jeff Gordon, mostly because he is leading in the points and because I think he is definitely going to break his losing streak and because I really think the team is due. Even after making my choice, I still think it is going to be an interesting race, right down to the end and because of the lack of time on the track, there could be some big surprises in store at the end… who knows for sure, it could be Mark Martin or Marcos Ambrose sitting in victory circle when all it is said and done…

See ya next time…

Rusty

© March 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