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”

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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

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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