Cup Teams Looking for Magic at the Magic Mile

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Considering where we are in the season and the race for the Chase, several cup teams are looking for Magic at the Magic mile this weekend. I think it goes without saying, the ones really looking for Magic are the ones that are in the top 16 in points and they don’t have a victory yet. In fact, there are some that have one victory and they’re looking for more but the ones without a victory are looking for one and they need it to be soon.

Matt Kenseth is the first one that comes to the mind of this fan when it comes to needing a victory. He may be fifth in points but he would like to solidify a position in the Chase by getting his first victory on the year the Magic mile. Compared to last year, he and his team have struggled a bit more than they did and it appears this year, he’s not qualifying like he did last year and just not as visible as he was last year.

Ryan Newman sits eight in the points standings right now but he really needs a victory to solidify a spot in the 16 available spots for the Chase. Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer are in similar situations and they sit 10th and 12th respectively. Without a win their points position is at least somewhat precarious for making the Chase.

Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers would like nothing better than to make a trip to Victory Lane this weekend and the three of them sit 13th, 15th and 16th in the points. Without wins, their situation for the Chase depends on what others do. Well, I guess that goes for anyone in the top 20 but it is definite, at least for this year, NASCAR’s focus is on winning and that’s exactly what anyone that wants to make it into the Chase needs to do. Those outside of the top 16 and yet in the top 20 needing a win are, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kane, Marcus Ambrose and Tony Stewart. After that it just depends on what happens as far as wins and points for all concerned.

Once again this weekend, Brad Keselowski looks to be very strong but it is questionable whether or not his speeds will hold up in long green flag runs. Of course we all know that he is quite capable of winning no matter what but should there be those long green flag runs, especially in the closing laps of the race, it’s possible he could be very beatable by many others.

At least from this fan’s view, it did appear there were those that made a lot of longer green flag runs in the practice sessions and any one of them might end up taking the checkered flag. I won’t go into a long list of names at this point but there are several that looked good when taking longer runs as far as their lap times were concerned.

Unfortunately, it does appear that there might be tire problems again this weekend although this fan doesn’t think that it’s really a Goodyear problem. Just from listening to some of the conversations about the few tire problems we saw during practice it’s this fan’s opinion, along with several others, that the failures had more to do with tire pressure than tire failure causing the tire problems. That’s something to keep in mind as the race progresses Sunday afternoon. It appears (at least to this old racer) that of the four tires that make contact with the track, the left rear could be the one that causes the most problems on this race day if that situation does rear its ugly head.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned polesitter, Kyle Busch much. That’s not because I’m counting him out as far as being able to win Sunday afternoon at the Magic mile but simply more because of his performance lately. Every team seems to go through times when they may be fast but anything and everything that can go wrong does go wrong for them. I’m not so sure that’s not where Kyle Busch and his team are right at the moment. He is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with at Chase time even though his performance in the Chase in past years has not been that good. That being said, this may be his year (and I do emphasize the “may” in that statement.)

When it comes to the race Sunday afternoon, there are a number of drivers that could end up in Victory Lane. Of the many that I’m thinking of, there are a few that stand out in my mind. Those would be Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon. Anyone, or none, of those could be the ones pulling into victory Lane when all is said and done Sunday afternoon at the Magic mile. It is also possible that this fan’s opinion in the ones he thinks might win could be absolutely the wrong choices. Fortunately for this fan (and this fan’s view) he never claimed to be able to tell the future…

This race is a short race and barring the unforeseen, there could be some relatively long green flag runs and the race could be over very quickly. It is also possible there could be a number of cautions and, should there be tire failures, some of those that are looking very good as winners at the moment could be taken out because of those tire failures. The most important aspects to keep in mind for the race this weekend is strategy, fuel mileage and tire problems. This fan really hopes that it doesn’t come down to fuel mileage even though when it does come down to that the end of the race, it usually is very interesting…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 12, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Sprint Cup Teams Road Racing In California

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Road Racing in the Sprint Cup Series used to be something many teams simply endured so they could move on to the next weekend. Now, many drivers have improved their skills to include Road Racing and many of them are excited at the change of pace. No longer do they dread having to turn right and left, shift gears while braking, climb up hill and go downhill all the while avoiding wheel hop and doing it all faster than the rest on the track.

Sure, I know there are still several that don’t like the road racing circuit but often they are replaced with “ringers” or they and their team take the week off. Not that they don’t actually show up, but they just don’t quite put forth the same effort as they may on the oval tracks. They still just endure the road course, do the best they can and move on to next week.

Personally, this fan likes to watch what are called “the best race car drivers in the world” take on the road circuits and show exactly what they are made of. Every year more and more of them seem to decide to improve their road racing skills and it has certainly made the racing much more interesting. I’m not being critical of anyone, I’m just stating the obvious and it has been interesting to watch how the NASCAR drivers and teams have improved on the road courses.

Are there still standouts when the Cup teams take to the road courses? Of course there are but it does appear to this fan all of them are getting better at it and the racing is much closer than it used to be and not all that long ago.

Some attribute the improvement to the cars and that probably does have something to do with it. I just don’t think anyone can deny that all of the drivers approach the road courses with a different mentality. Now, they want to be just as competitive at these tracks as they want to be on all of the other type tracks they face. From this fan’s view, I think they got tired of watching some of their competitors simply drive away from them on a regular basis and that just didn’t sit well with their competitive spirit.

What I find interesting this year at Sonoma is the lineup to start the race. It actually looks a lot like a regular oval track lineup instead of a road course. Perhaps a little unexpected to this fan was Jamie McMurray taking the pole position. That’s not to say he isn’t a good road course driver, it’s just that I didn’t expect it. Actually, Jamie is very good on these tracks and has qualified up front before. He has matured as a driver over the last few years and he knows you can’t win the race on the first lap. Road courses take a lot of consistency and patience, something he appears to have a grip on more now than in past years.

Not unexpectedly, Marcos Ambrose is starting on the front row but Jamie McMurray took the pole position from him by a few hundredths of a second. Marcos was a little disappointed by that but I expect him to be one of the contenders all day long. One thing is for sure, barring the unforeseen mistake or equipment failure, he is probably one of the most likely winners by the end of the day.

The top ten is full of possible winners other than McMurray and Ambrose. A few names that stand out in particular to this fan are Clint Bowyer, Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon. All three are very capable on the road courses and could end up in Victory Lane when all is said and done.

Greg Biffle is another one that stands out to this fan that could pull off the victory. He does come into this weekend with confidence and momentum on his side compared to past years and this could be his year to take home the trophy.

Of all the emphasis put on the drivers’ capabilities on these type tracks (and this one in particular), the strategy calls by the crew chiefs in the pits will probably make the biggest difference by the end of the day. The drivers will have to be consistent lap after lap, avoid wheel hop and keep all four tires on the asphalt. Track position will be important and so will the number of pit stops each team makes. Some will try to make it in two and others will try for three. Which one will work out the best? Well that my fellow NASCAR fans is what we’ll find out when the checkered flag drops…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 23, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR Cup Teams Take On Phoenix with a Little Different Gen 6 Car

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Rusty Norman

After a grueling Speed Weeks in Daytona, many call this the real first race of the season. Of course they’re wrong, but we all know what they mean. Some have even said this is the first true test of the new Gen 6 racecar and they may be right. One thing is certain though… this is the first race for the Gen 6 car on a track other than two plus miles and without restrictor plates. The smaller tracks, like this one at Phoenix, are the ones most frequented by NASCAR in the regular season. It did appear (at least to this fan) all the Cup teams were trying to gather as much information for their notebooks as they could for future tracks even though this one is unique in itself.

It is also a little different Gen 6 car than the one the teams put on the track at Daytona. Most of the changes are for down force and are to the rear of the car. If you’ve been paying attention to the many reports this week, you’ve seen exactly what and where those changes are. For those that might have missed it, it has to do with the blade (or the spoiler) on the rear deck lid and at the bottom of the body at the rear of the car. This will be the car we see the most this year and the one we saw at Daytona we will only see a few more times, (although this fan and others think there might be some tweaks to the other car at lest by the time the Cup teams visit Daytona in July.)

Judging from the practices (especially on Saturday) this fan thinks many of the teams are having a little trouble getting a handle on this newcar. At least on this one mile track it appears that way. Maybe it is just because it has been a little too easy to hook up the backend with the increased down force and that has made it more difficult to hook up the front end. Whatever it is, some have found what it takes and others are still struggling. One thing was pretty obvious though – the teams were learning fast.

Mark Martin didn’t appear to have too much trouble adjusting to this new car at all, though. He won the pole and was very fast in all three practices. If nothing else, it looks as though he should be one of the top picks to take the trip to victory lane this afternoon. Personally I think it is a bit too early make that choice, but I do admit he is looking very strong this weekend.

Depending on whether you look at the qualifying times or the lap times in the last two practices, you do see some names that were obviously fast in all three. Mark Martin is one of the most obvious but Kyle Bush is another. With the way things have been going for Joe Gibbs Racing so far I don’t think they want to get their hopes up too much too early but, it won’t surprise this fan to see all three of the JGR teams mixing it up to take the checkered flag by the end of the day.

And then there are those MWR teams. No one can deny they have been flexing a lot of muscle since last season and this season doesn’t appear to have changed that. Along with Mark Martin being fastest in the last practice, we also find Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr in the top ten. That sounds like a triple threat to this fan and I expect any of the three to be running very near the front when it comes down to the end. The only thing that might be of concern for them is some of the engine troubles experienced by the Toyotas. Even Denny Hamlin of JGR had an engine go bad as he was backing out of his garage stall. If there is one thing that might hold MWR or JGR back for taking the win, engine problems would be at the top of the list.

Although they have struggled a bit so far, the Roush Fords appear to be getting their act together, too. Both Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle had gained some speed and were in the top ten in the final practice.

I think I’ll just wait and see how the Penske and Petty Fords do. They weren’t at the top of the charts but with this being a short race I don’t expect anyone to just lay back and wait for the end to make a move.

I have noticed some are trying to make a big deal out of what is called “the feud” between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon but from my view, I think it is just a bunch of hype and I don’t expect anything to happen. It is way to early in the season and this isn’t exactly in the heat of the battle like it was last fall. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still some hard feelings in both camps but I don’t think today will be the day for payback of any kind. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

What I do expect is for this race is for it to likely develop into a fuel mileage race just like it always does. I’m hoping it doesn’t but it has before and made the end of the race less than exciting (unless you like the drama of seeing who will run out of fuel last.) You know, now that I think about it, that doesn’t sound that bad either…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© Marc h 3, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Sprint Unlimited Opens NASCAR Cup 2013 with the Gen 6 X-Factor

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I know you’ve heard the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Well, generally that holds true but, the 2013 NASCAR Cup Season looks to be full of changes and many hope they are for the better (including this NASCAR fan.)

The highly touted “Sprint Unlimited” should give us as fans a bit more information as to how the racing might go next week with “The Duels” and the Daytona 500. At the moment, there has only been limited practice with larger packs and, from this fans view, the jury is still out concerning whether or not NASCAR has made the right changes to make the racing better.

We all know the racing has generally been good but not always great, at least in my and others’ opinion. Yes, there have been some great moments in the last couple of years, but, there has also been a some lackluster races and the restrictor plate races have received more criticism since the “two-car-tandem” became the norm than they used to before the COT showed up on the scene.

Now, I’m not saying any of that was, in itself, something that took away from my enjoyment of the restrictor plate tracks but there were some races that would have been better if they were only 100 miles instead of 400 – 500. The best parts of those races were the first several laps and the last 10 – 20 laps. Even the “two-car-tandem’ was fun for a while and gave some of the most dramatic finishes fans have seen in quite a while. Unfortunately, it became too technical and required a lot more communication between “tandem partners” and their spotters, resulting in general chaos at times. (Well, at least that’s this fan’s opinion…) In fact, the middle of those long restrictor plate races almost became humdrum at times. (That’s why I mentioned they would have been better if they were shorter…)

There are a lot of good things about the new car and one is the way it looks. It is no longer hard to tell which brand is which because they all have their own distinct look. It goes without saying that the new car is safer and many of the changes made were to keep the drivers safe. They also appear to have speed and that is one thing many have complained about in one way or another over the last several years.

There is one thing about the new Gen 6 car that is almost scary and that is that the drivers seem to be very happy with it. They like the way it drives and they like the increased speed the cars appear to have. One of the hopes was that it would put more of the racing back in the hands of the driver, along with the hope they could reduce the effect aerodynamics had on the ability to pass. So far, it appears to be the case, but like I mentioned earlier, there hasn’t been that much time spent running in larger packs and they have noticed something this week that we could more about after tonight.

I have heard rumors that the more cars that get together in a pack the faster they go, but that hasn’t proven out yet and probably won’t be known until next week simply because they will have bigger packs in The Duels an in the 500 in particular.

One of the problems the teams are experiencing is having enough parts to build the fleet of cars they need. The earlier practice in January ate up a few reserves due to an accident and yesterdays first practice took out a few more. That has caused the crew chiefs to be cautious about allowing their drivers to spend much time in large packs, (at least until the race tonight…) There seems to be a bit of caution on several fronts leading up to the Unlimited but I really do believe they let them loose after the drivers get more accustomed to these cars running in packs (and they should be doing that tonight.)

I’m anxious to see if they have a big one (or maybe two) tonight since it is a given they will be going all out for tonight’s race. The Gen 6 is definitely an X-Factor for tonight but it should be better understood after tonight and everytime they get on the track next week. There is no doubt they can little afford a lot of wrecked race cars getting ready for the 500 next weekend so I do expect quite a bit of caution to be exercised between now and next Sunday. What I am not sure of is how tonight’s race is going to end. It could be with a whole slew of cars spinning past the flagstand or it could just be another single file finish. If it is the latter, I think all of us are going to have re-evaluate our expectations for next weekend… What do you think???

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 16, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Looking for Magic at the Magic Mile from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
Say what you will about this weekend’s race at Loudon, but… More than one or two are looking for Magic to happen at the Magic mile. For some, it is to make their spot for the Chase more secure than it is at the moment. For others… well… it is the closest thing to “desperation time” than they are willing to admit and they just need some magic to happen.

Yes, it is true. The time has come for some to begin finishing up front or forget about their chances of making the Chase for 2012. No longer can some of the teams afford to show up on a weekly basis with fast cars and high hopes. In fact, some will have to win more than one race if they hope to make the Chase and even that would only give them a shot at being in the hunt for one of the two Wild Card spots.

So… just who am I talking about in particular? Well, hang on just minute and I’ll get to that, but first, let’s talk about those that are relatively safe at the moment.

It doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to figure a few things out about those already in the top ten. There are eight races left to make the Chase and, from this fan’s view, those already in the top five are pretty much a lock to be there. (That is unless total disaster strikes one or two of them.)

Tony Stewart, for example, is only 14 points ahead of Clint Bowyer who sits in tenth spot. Even if he has some really bad weeks and falls out of the top ten, he still has 3 wins which already qualifies him for one of the Wild Card slots at this point in time. That makes him a pretty safe bet for being in the Chase no matter what happens.

Kevin Harvick is tied with Stewart in points but his situation is different. He doesn’t have any wins. That means he can’t afford to be anything but what he has been this year – consistent. A few bad races in the next eight coupled with no wins could mean missing the Chase. From my view, he is definitely a question mark at this time even though he is currently listed in sixth place.

From this fan’s view, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski shouldn’t worry too much even if they fall out of the top ten simply because they have two wins and three wins respectively. Clint Bowyer sits in tenth, but also has one win.

So of those presently sitting in the top ten, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr are in the most precarious positions if they have some bad races.

Those presently sitting eleventh to twentieth in points are the ones that need the “Magic” to happen for them this Sunday afternoon and several more times in the following seven races. Of them, I still can’t ignore two drivers that have simply had bad luck most of the year. It hasn’t been because their cars weren’t fast and it hasn’t been because they haven’t been running at, or near, the front just about every week before some calamity changed their finishing positions for some reason or other. (Yeah, I know you know I’m talking about Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon.)

Sure, I know Carl Edwards managed a sixth place finish last weekend at Daytona and that had to be encouraging for him and his team. Don’t forget the week before he was running near the front and had to stop for fuel costing him many spots.

Now Jeff Gordon’s situation has been a bit different (comparatively speaking, of course.) As I said about both of them last week, if it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. At Daytona last weekend, he was running in third, minding his own business and stopping for fuel with others when he got tagged by Bill Elliott as a result of one of the big ones that affected many. He could have finished in the top five. As it turned out, he finished twelfth. If anyone needs the “Magic” to begin happening for them Sunday afternoon, it is Jeff Gordon and he needs to have it continue on through the next seven races. If not, it is this fan’s opinion, he will be one of the ones running for thirteenth spot when the Chase starts.

Kyle Bush, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne all have one win which complicates the issue for Edwards and Gordon unless they begin to win (and it’s going to take more than one win for each of them if they want to make the Chase.)

As for the race this Sunday afternoon, it will likely be a fuel mileage race and track position will be as important as anything that happens. Since it is also a short race and a fast track, it will likely have only a minimum of pit stops (that is if the race goes as it usually does.)

By the way, did anyone besides me notice how many Hendrick or Hendrick associated teams are starting in the top ten? Hm-m-m… I wonder what that will mean at the end of the day??

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 14, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
There’s nothing quite like Memorial Day weekend… There are a lot of things going on in celebration of the fallen heroes of our country and what they and their families have sacrificed for our country and us. There is also a whole lot of racing going on.

It is no secret that two of the most important and biggest ones would be the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway because they are a yearly tradition. The way things are set up for the two races, not only can fans attend one and watch the other one on TV or they can watch both of them on TV. As for me, I will more likely pay a little attention to the Indy 500 while it is going on and watch as the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams endure 600 miles – 400 laps – at the fast one and a half mile oval in Charlotte, NC.

So what is it about this 600 mile race that attracts all the attention? Well… it isn’t just about the race. It is also about that extra 100 miles.

There’s always been something about the 600 that has caught the attention of the fan’s. I’m not exactly sure why it enjoys the popularity it does, but I do know it is a unique race and there isn’t really not another one that compares to it. Some call it an endurance race while some just call it the longest race and either one is true. Either way, it will be full of drama but, from this fan’s view, probably not until the last fifty of those extra 100 miles.

To this fan, one of the things that is most interesting about it is how the drivers have to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the 400 laps they will make around the Speedway. Just when they would be ready to head home after a normal night of racing, they have to make another 100 miles and still be sharp mentally and physically and be up on the wheel, ready to make their move to take the checkered flag. This is no ordinary race for the cup teams and it will test not only the limits of the cars and the drivers but the team as a whole.

The RPM Fords are on the front row for the start of tonight’s race and that means they will have great pit stalls. Other than that, one has to wonder if they will be able to maintain track position at or near the front for the whole night. All of us know it is one thing to be able to run one or two fast laps to qualify on the front row and quite another to keep that track position from the beginning all the way to the end. Although it is great to see Richard Petty Motorsports qualifying as they did, I’m a little skeptical of how their night will end. Yes, it is possible either Almirola or Ambrose could end up in Victory Lane but this fan thinks they are long shots for tonight.

Who would have thought of the four Hendrick teams, Jeff Gordon would seem the least likely of them to win tonight. After all, the first time he won in Cup was right at this very place. Since that time, we all know how his Cup career has gone but to say this year has been a struggle would be the ultimate understatement, at least from this fan’s view. It hasn’t even been because they’ve been running poorly but it has been because they haven’t been finishing well. From my view, the #24 team could win tonight and it could be where the entire year turns around for the driver and the team. I really think they have a good chance at taking the win tonight even though it seems they have been running a little under the radar this weekend.

The obvious ones to be possible winners from the Hendrick camp would be the other three. Of them, I’m having a little trouble deciding whether it will be Jimmie Johnson or Dale Jr with the best chance or whether Kasey Kahne will lead the pack to the checkers. All three of them have been running strong over the last two weekends.

Just because I’ve just mentioned the strong possibility of one of the Hendrick teams finishing up front doesn’t mean none of the other teams have a chance tonight. MWR’s Martin Truex Jr has shown a lot of speed in the practice sessions. I guess I shouldn’t ignore Mark Martin or Clint Bowyer either. All of the MWR teams have a great chance at taking the win for tonight.

In fact, there are a lot of strong teams qualified to start the night in middle of the pack. Names like Harvick, Newman, Stewart, Kyle Bush, Kenseth, Allmendinger and of course Brad Keselowski. I’m not one to think none of them have a chance tonight, I just don’t think they will show their cards until the last 100 laps or so. That means, at least from this fan’s view, it won’t be over ’til it’s over.

What I expect to see tonight is a race that is run fairly conservatively for the first 450 miles or so. Most will try to maintain track position and yet not tax their reserves until that last 150 miles, in particular, the last 50 miles. In fact, I think this race might be just a bit boring in the middle even though I do expect to see a lot of diverse strategies being applied over the whole night.

When it comes down to crunch time, I expect to see some engine failures along with some other types of part failures that could even give us that very unexpected winner for this Coca-Cola 600 (which has kinda become the expectation over the years… )

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 27, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

After Talladega from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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It was a hot day in Alabama. Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske weren’t disappointed with the heat or the Talladega race but they were in the minority and it was likely because they were sitting in Victory Lane. As expected, there was a lot of drama from the drop of the green flag but not a lot of it was because of the racing in the large pack. Most of the drama was coming from the concern the drivers had for the water and oil temps and how closely they needed to watch their gauges. Unfortunately, fans and drivers alike thought it was more about water and oil temperatures and lot less about actual racing.

From this fan’s view, even though there was the large pack of cars running nose to tail, two and three wide, there wasn’t a lot of racing for position going on. It appeared the drivers were trying to keep a reasonable distance between each others bumpers to maintain a lower water temperature, (which, of course, would lead to a lower oil temperature), so they might at least still be running when it came down to the final laps. Yes, it was obvious they wanted to maintain a certain position on the track and not fall too far behind, but it was also obvious that there was more concern about maintaining the temperatures than anything else.

Even with all of the efforts to maintain what was considered to be safer operating engine temperatures, there were still a lot of engine failures although admittedly it was hard to tell if some of them were normal part failures or temperature related. In fact, from this fan’s view, I don’t think any of the failures were related to overheating, but that does not mean that it didn’t affect the racing as a whole.

It is my opinion, and I am usually on NASCAR’s side and do respect what they do but, this time I think they blew it. I have to agree with the words of several drivers that insinuated there has to be a better way to control the tandem drafting than with temperatures. Surely they can come up with “something” other than that.

It is also my opinion that this is what happens when a sanctioning body tries to run things by audience poll. I’m not saying they shouldn’t listen to input from the fan base and it has been my experience over the years they don’t usually make “knee-jerk” decisions but, I think they tried a quick fix that may have worked for one track and one type of condition. All tracks have a different character and it is a definite given that air temperatures change pretty much daily in any location. Maybe the best way to solve the problems of today’s high-tech racing is to use some of the old technology, (as Michael Waltrip has said several times in the last several years when asked his opinion.)

Look, I’m not a real fan of the tandem drafting but it does have an advantage for passing in today’s restrictor plate racing. In fact, I really do like the large pack racing we used to see in the plate races. Now it appears, at least from my view, we have the large pack again but very little racing going on. It is mostly follow the leader and watch the gauges until there are only a few laps remaining. Surely NASCAR, with the state of the technology they have available and have allowed and introduced, can come up with a way to keep the two-car drafting from being so advantageous and still make it an interesting and drama-filled race. (I have to admit that personally, I was not on the edge of my seat at all during this plate race…)

I don’t know, maybe it is next to impossible to undo what’s been done. (But then this is NASCAR and I don’t really believe that either, do you… ?)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 10, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASACAR at Talladega from Just a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Talladega… Before the restrictor plates came into use it was probably the fastest track the NASCAR Cup Teams ever had to face. (Yeah, I know some will argue with that statement, but honestly, that doesn’t matter that much to me.) It is wider than Daytona and it has more banking than Daytona and the speeds are fast, even with the restrictor plates. Besides all of the facts just mentioned, it has also been the track where some of the most dramatic finishes in NASCAR have taken place and probably the most memorable one was last year when eight cars finished less than a quarter of a second apart.

Usually, qualifying has very little drama and it is more important for the one that wins the pole and gets to claim the number one pit stall. Yesterday’s qualifying session appeared as though it was going to go much as expected… that is, until Jeff Gordon took his turn in the session. He didn’t run the expected lines during his two qualifying laps but he did end up with the fastest qualifying time. For today’s race, Jeff Gordon sits on the pole.

If anyone needed a boost from something good happening, it would be the #24 team and its driver. It’s not that they haven’t had fast cars most every weekend nor has it been that the driver hasn’t run strong in almost every race this year. He just seems to be going through one of those times that many drivers and teams face (usually more than once) throughout their careers. No matter how strong or good they have been running, something has happened to keep them from finishing a race with the results it looked like they deserved. Whether it has been blown engines or getting accidently put in the wall by one of their Hendrick team-mates, things have just not gone well.

I don’t know what you think about it, but from my view, no matter how a season is going, Jeff Gordon always appears have a positive attitude. Now, I’m not saying he doesn’t show signs of being discouraged, but he doesn’t throw his team under the bus. He continually looks at how they are performing and what they are doing right and what’s going wrong.

From this fan’s view, it shows the character of the driver and the team. When tough times come, they don’t blame each other, they suck it up and look how they can use the positive and improve on the negative things they do each week. To me, that is why the #24 team and its driver are champions and I expect they will come out of their slump soon. In fact, even though starting on the pole doesn’t mean much when it comes to restrictor plate racing, it could be today.

No matter how you look at it, the drama in today’s race will be exhibited from the drop of the green flag until the checkered flag falls. I don’t look at it as being an “on the edge of your seat” race every lap, but there is a lot of stuff going on in the minds of the drivers and crews that will make it dramatic, even thought the action on the track may appear to wane at times.

Over-heating is the biggest concern of many of the teams for today’s race and it will be one of the biggest performance factors for every team all day. Add to that the expected temperatures of the air and track and it could prove to be the “perfect storm” for some that otherwise could finish up front.

A J Allmendinger surprised many by taking the outside pole position and will start next to Jeff Gordon on the front row. In fact it was a surprise to some that the Fords didn’t qualify up front much as they did at Daytona. From this fan’s view, that doesn’t mean they won’t be the ones to beat this afternoon, but it could mean the “pack racing” could be much more exciting than it even usually is.

Since the rule changes NASCAR made to try and break up the “two car tandem” that brought back “pack racing” to the Super Speedways has worked (more because of over-heating concerns than anything else) there is the possibility of the “Big One” taking out possible contenders for the victory. That doesn’t mean we won’t see the two car draft, but it is highly expected it will be saved mostly for the laps near the end of the race.

It is hard for anyone to pick a winner for a restrictor plate race, especially Talladega. I won’t even try to do that but there are some I would like to see win and some I would rather not. I do expect to see the usual ones at the front fighting for position especially in the closing laps. Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and the Bush brothers should be there along with Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and, of course Dale Earnhardt Jr. Of course, I can’t leave out Michael Waltrip Racing’s teams either.

With the way all of the teams have been running, it is anybody’s race. I expect the last 25 laps to be very intense and the finish to be as dramatic and intense as any we witnessed in recent times. Of course, there is also the possibility the end could come with a bunch of torn up race cars sitting, smoking and steaming and someone totally unexpected sitting in Victory Lane.

But, I reckon we won’t know that until the checkered flag drops… will we?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 6, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Denny Hamlin won the STP 400 in Kansas last weekend and, if you listened to many about this weekend at Richmond, they had already declared him or his team-mate Kyle Bush as the likely winners of tonight’s Cup race. The problem is, there are several other drivers that are making a strong case that that just might not happen. In fact, Mark Martin is sitting on the pole and Carl Edwards is sitting next to him on the front row and one of them would like nothing better than to put an end to the regularity of the Joe Gibbs teams success at RIR.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that there is more than one driver in the Cup Series that is hungry for a victory. So far, 2012 seems to be a year to expect the unexpected and, personally, this fan doesn’t expect the race tonight to be any different. Even during qualifying the unexpected happened. Many of the ones with the faster lap times in the first practice didn’t fair well when it came time to qualify. Even though the expectation is for the late qualifiers to run faster, it didn’t happen that way for several, (except of course, Mark Martin) and they will start in mid pack.

The real surprise so far this year, at least from this fan’s view, is the strength of the Michael Waltrip Racing teams. They have shown up every week with strong cars and have performed extremely well in this first part of the season. Martin Truex Jr’s second place finish from last week didn’t really tell the whole story. He led a bunch of laps and looked like he was going to pull off the victory until the last pit stop. That’s when his car fell off the pace just enough for Denny Hamlin to catch and pass him and stay out front.

Over the last four weeks in particular, Martin Truex Jr has finished in the top ten and always been in the hunt for the victory. He hasn’t won yet, but it is only a matter of time from this fan’s view. He and Mark Martin have been very impressive and either one of them could win tonight.

Now, Clint Bowyer is another story for MWR. He is kind of in the same boat as Jeff Gordon of Hendrick MotorSports when it comes to how he’s finished. Both he and Gordon have been competitive almost every week so far but have little or nothing to show for it. Both have experienced blown engines and both are outside the top ten in points, although Bowyer is just outside in eleventh. Both of them like this track and either one could end up in Victory Lane tonight, (but, I’m not picking any winners yet.)

The Jack Roush teams of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle continue to run consistently fast each week and could be up front at the end of tonight’s Capital City 400. Since I’ve been talking about expecting the unexpected, I don’t really think one of them is going to win tonight but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in there fighting for it. I mean, Biffle is still sitting at the top of the points and Kenseth is in third. If something disastrous doesn’t happen to them I expect they will make a good showing tonight.

The Hendrick Teams will be looking for that 200th win for their boss, Rick Hendrick tonight and once again, Dale Jr looks like a possible victor in this short rack race tonight. He has been running very consistent lately and he really does run well at RIR.

Jimmie Johnson just hasn’t looked confident in his car on the track this weekend but when it comes down to crunch-time, I expect the five time champ to be pressing toward the front and possibly be leading at, or near the end of the race. As for four time champ Jeff Gordon, well… it is definitely a possibility and I expect he and his crew chief, Allan Gustafson will be doing all they can to bring home number two hundred for Hendrick.

When it comes down to the end of the race, there are several I haven’t mentioned yet that I expect to be possible takers of the checkered flag. One would be AJ Allmendinger and a real shocker would be Marcos Ambrose. Of course I do think AJ has a better chance than Marcos, but then… we are talking about expecting the unexpected… aren’t we?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 28, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Texas A Triumph for Biffle from Just a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Greg Biffle won the Samsung Mobile 500 last Saturday night… but then, you already knew that. He also broke a 49 race drought of being in Victory Lane… but that’s just about all you heard about his victory all week, too. So, what else is there to talk about when it comes to the race at Texas Motor Speedway? Well… I guess that depends.

You see, Greg Biffle not only has the points lead, but he has a victory to go with it. Some would say he is on a tear (while others may say “on a roll”) and that’s okay because either one fits. Compared to last year, he is doing great and is running consistently up front. Even if he runs into some rough races in the weeks ahead, that victory will carry some weight along the way for him, but, he will probably need more than one if the bottom does drop out for him. Add to all that the fact that Roush teams have a tendency to run well at 1 ½ mile tracks and it is very possible he could win at least one more (and probably more than that.)

Some have already crowned him the Cup Champion for the year and they could be right. Even with the new points system, he really needs to stumble for most of the field to even stay close to him, but this fan thinks it is way to soon to be naming someone to take the Cup Championship.

Yeah, it’s true he has looked unstoppable so far and all of his finishes are in the top fifteen but that doesn’t always mean he will continue with his present stats. Admittedly, it does look like he is going to continue with his strong showing but, this is not quite 1/3 of the way into the season.

From this point on, anything can happen even if it is someone (or several someones) hitting a hot streak and the #16 team just having decent finishes outside the top ten. If that does happen, there is always the possibility Biffle and his team could start trying to press their own envelope to try and regain the performance levels they’ve enjoyed in this early part of the year and begin to fall backwards in the points. Of course you know this is just speculation from this fan’s view but it could happen.

Once again, the Hendrick teams didn’t score the 200th victory for their boss, Rick Hendrick but all of them did have a good day at TMS. (I hate to state the obvious, but two of them, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon, really needed it.) It did appear that Jimmie Johnson was going to take home the trophy and the honors for scoring number two hundred for Hendrick MotorSports, but Biffle’s power slide past him as they dealt with lap traffic late in the race put an end to that possibility.

Michael Waltrip Racing had a very good showing with two from that camp finishing in the top ten. Mark Martin lead the way for MWR finishing third and Martin Truex Jr finishing sixth. It is very obvious that MWR has turned a corner on performance issues of the past and all three teams are showing up every weekend with fast cars and good race-day runs. That doesn’t mean they are perfect yet, but it does mean they could be in Victory Lane at any time in the near future.

From this fan’s view, Texas proved just how close the main teams are running these days and how important track position is every week. It also showed that Roush Racing has a strong grip performance-wise on the 1 ½ mile tracks and that could prove to be a good thing, in particular for Greg Biffle and the #16 team. It just may mean that Greg Biffle does have a chance at staying at the top of the points, at least up to Chase time. Then again, it could mean absolutely nothing at all for him or Roush Racing when the Chase begins.

Can anyone say, “Carl Edwards…?”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 18, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
The track at Texas is fast… really fast. It is also tricky when it comes to entering the turns, especially when the bumps show up entering into turns one and two. So what does that mean for tonight’s race at TMS? Well… from this fan’s view, it means the one that can consistently run the fastest lap times, deal with the bumps and not have problems in the pits will probably end up in Victory Lane. Oh yeah… and it could turn out to be a fuel mileage and tire management race, too, and that could prove to make it a very interesting night for sure.

Martin Truex Jr will sit on the pole for tonight’s race but this fan wonders whether or not that will actually translate into a victory for Michael Waltrip Racing (or even whether it will translate into a victory for Martin Truex Jr.) As was obvious in qualifying, one fast lap does not (and will not) a race make.

What do I mean by that? Well… many of the cars ran fast on their first qualifying lap but none that I noticed ran as fast, or faster, on their second lap. That makes it fairly obvious that the drop-off in speed with the tires is pretty quick and that should make it interesting when it comes down to the longer green flag runs. That could mean a big difference in which cars start out up front and the ones that actually finish up front.

Of course, one of the big questions is whether or not tonight’s race will mean Rick Hendrick and Hendrick MotorSports gets that 200th Cup win. Once again Kasey Kahne is starting in the top five, but with the way his year has been going, not too many are putting much stock in his chances for a win tonight. That’s not a statement against Kasey’s abilities, it’s just that he hasn’t had the best of finishes even though he has had fast cars every weekend this season.

He and Jeff Gordon are pretty much in the same boat when it comes to their racing luck this year and there are two ways this fan looks at that. Either they are getting all of their bad luck out of the way long before the Chase and are going to finish strong then, or, they just won’t be factors at the end of the year.

I’m sure there are some of you that disagree with me and that’s okay. I’m just as sure there are others of you that figure they are already out of the running and won’t even make the Chase.

Personally, I think it is a little early to start talking about which drivers will and won’t make the Chase. We’re only about one quarter of the way into qualifying for the Chase and there is still a lot of time for others to run into some disappointments before we get there and it may be some of the present front runners, too. I’m not saying that will happen, but I am saying “racing luck” is a finicky beast and can affect anyone at anytime and, unfortunately for some, for extended periods of time.

As far as the other Hendrick teams of Johnson and Earnhardt Jr, well… they are starting in good spots and their chances for ending up in Victory Lane are at least fairly good. I’m not convinced they will, but I have been surprised more than once so far this year.

A quick look at the top of the lineup for tonight is interesting in itself and I am still not convinced starting up front amounts to a hill of beans when it comes to time for the checkered flag to drop. The Roush Fords of Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth look strong and the 1½ mile tracks seem to always be some of their strongest showings. Could that mean either one of them (or even their team-mate, Carl Edwards) takes home the trophy tonight? Yeah, it could but, it may mean nothing other than they do have pretty decent records at the Texas Motor Speedway.

When it comes right down to it, (at least from this fan’s view), there isn’t that much separation in lap times between most of the teams. It’s not how fast you go… its where you finish that makes all the difference and in tonight’s race… well… I’m thinking we’ll all be surprised at who actually wins. The big question is, will Jr Nation be happy at the end of the night… ?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 14, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Justafansview.com and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Some Need Good Things to Happen at Martinsville from Just a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
NASCAR Sprint Cup teams are back to short trackin’ at Martinsville today and for some, it is time for something good to happen or they just might not be in the Chase this year. Sure, I know it is very early in the season and this is only the sixth race of the year but, that means there are only twenty weeks left after this one is over. To some, that sounds like a lot of time and maybe it is, but, points add up fast in both directions whether you’re leading or losing… and some just can’t afford to keep on going the way they are.

I’m sure some are glad there will be a week off to regroup after the Goody’s Fast Relief 500, if for no other reason, than they get a chance to breathe and think about the way the season is going this year. For others, they may not want to break their momentum and would prefer to just keep on going without a break. As for this fan, I think a week off will do some good for everyone.

Once again, Kasey Kahne has shown up with a fast race car and easily took the pole for today’s race. From my view, and judging from the way the truck race went for Kevin Harvick after starting from the pole, Kasey also has an excellent chance to get his first win as a Hendrick driver and it would be the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports. That is something all of the Hendrick teams have been trying to get for their owner since last season.

Of course, with the way Kasey’s luck has been running this year, sitting on the pole and having a fast car hasn’t meant a trip to Victory Lane this year. So far, he has shown up with fast cars every weekend and is sitting 28th in points (a great disappoint to him, his team and this fans.) He just hasn’t been able to finish anywhere near the front most weekends.

Another that is looking for something good to happen would also be a member of Hendrick Motorsports. I’m sure everyone knows that would be Jeff Gordon and he hasn’t had the kind of year anyone expected him to have. It’s not that he hasn’t had fast equipment and hasn’t been performing well, it’s just that he has had a problem with that beast called “racing luck” too.

One thing about Jeff Gordon though… he won’t throw in the towel until there is no hope left. Even then, he won’t go down without putting up a valiant fight. There is nothing that would be better for him and his team than to finish in the top five today or, better yet, get that 200th win for his boss Rick Hendrick. From my view, that would be a great way for the #24 team to go into the week off and possibly gain some momentum for Texas. No matter how you look at it, this is a week Jeff Gordon needs a good finish.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of good drivers and cars that intend to make it very difficult for either Kahne or Gordon to get that 200th win for Hendrick Motorsports. Just to mention a few of them would be names like Harvick, Hamlin, Bowyer, Newman, Vickers and Keselowski. All of them can win at Martinsville and none of them intend to pull over and let those other two just drive by them. If either Gordon or Kahne do end up in Victory Lane today, it won’t be because they didn’t work for it.

Another wrinkle for the #5 and #24 teams would be their teammates of Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. Both of them want to be the ones that deliver that 200th win to Mr Hendrick and I expect both of them to be right in there fighting for the win when it comes down to the final laps.

From this fan’s view, the most obvious thing I’ve noticed about the Cup teams is that most of them are fast this year and there is very little speed difference between them. That means this short track experience today could be very interesting. No one can afford to lose track position in the pits and I expect that could mean there might be a few short tempers displayed, especially near the end of the day. (You know I’m not just talking about tempers flaring between drivers, crews and crew chiefs, don’t you?)

However it goes, the emotions will be running high today and, without actually picking a winner, I do expect to see a Hendrick team in Victory Lane when the checkered flag falls after 500 laps. Of course, I could be surprised, but then, probably not…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 31, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions