Winning Is The Only Thing For The All Stars At Texas From a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There is one thing different about this weekend is it’s not about points. Another thing is nothing really matters except winning. Oh, did I mention winning is worth a million dollars. Yeah… I know you already knew that but, I just wanted to say it to see if I could get a reaction. It is true though, every one of the cars on the track could win and the rest mostly just go home and wait until the next race.

I don’t know about you but, I’ve heard a lot a talk this last week about the performance of the Chevys lately. In fact, I have to agree with most of what I’ve been hearing and what has been said about the Hendrick teams I totally agree with. Yeah, I know that sounds a bit biased but, if you’ve been hanging around this site much over the last several years, you already know I have always been a Hendrick fan. I’ve been one for a long time.

That may cause some of you to right now leave here and turn to somewhere else but, look; you have your own favorite team or teams and I think that’s great. I just happen to have been a fan of Hendrick MotorSports for longer that some of you might have been alive. I’ve been a fan of theirs when they were winning, when they were losing and when they struggled off and on over the years. Even when they were struggling over the last couple of years. I can’t begin to tell you how great it is to see them doing so well. I guess lately you could say they’ve been pretty much dominating the field over the last several weeks.

Okay now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have other drivers and teams I like. It just means when push comes to shove, a couple of things don’t change for me. I have always been a Chevy fan, (yes, even before I graduated High School), and I have been a Hendrick fan for a very long time. Yes, some of those other drivers drive Fords. I’m having a tough time thinking of a Toyota driver I could mention but, there may be one out there, somewhere. I do like Joe Gibbs and could give Martin Truex Jr. an honorable mention I guess.

That may be the reason I think the All Star race on Sunday night is going to be a good one. With the way they’re doing the stages and inversion and all associated items that usually accompany the All Star race, I don’t think anyone at this point can actually pick a winner. Admittedly, there are a bunch of possibilities unless the Hendrick Chevys have everyone as covered as they have in recent weeks.

The problem with trying to pick one winner of the million dollars and possibly picking a Hendrick team as the winner is that any one of the four HMS teams could win. Many have already given the nod to Kyle Larson as the likely victor but, I’m not so sure, only because of the way the stages are setup. The last stage being only ten laps makes it difficult unless the strategy is played just right. The inversion might be trouble for many but, even though someone may be fast, it doesn’t mean they will be in position to get to the front and take it to Victory Lane. Another reason I’m not so sure is because all four of the Hendrick teams have won races and all four have a chance to win the million.

Other possible winners that have been talked about a lot coming up to this weekend would be Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Both are winless so far this season but both could pull off a victory. Well… at least that’s what some are saying. When it comes to this fan’s view, I just don’t know if either of them can or will. Kevin Harvick just hasn’t shown that much so far this season. He isn’t running bad. I guess I would call what he is doing as mediocre, at least, compared to what they did last season. Denny Hamlin has also been finishing extremely consistent and just hasn’t been able to take it all the way to the end with a win, especially with the way the Hendrick teams have been running. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying he won’t win; I’m just saying I don’t think he will.

I suppose I have to mention the JGR teams of Kyle Bush and Martin Truex Jr. if for no other reason than they could be the ones to take it to the Hendrick teams. Truex has been struggling a bit lately but he could turn it around when comes to taking home a million dollars. I also noticed that Kyle Bush did take advantage of running in the Xfinity race. That really doesn’t surprise me since he seems to run better when the Cup teams have practice sessions. Running the Xfinity race gives him more track time and could very well improve his performance in the All-Star race. I realize there is quite a bit of difference between the two types of cars but the track time seems to help his performance. It could just mean he could take that cool million. After all, it is all about winning the money.

There are many drivers that could win this race and there are a lot of reasons there could be an unexpected winner. One of the biggest reasons is that they are running to win and running to win a million dollars. From previous experience, they have a tendency to be very aggressive and won’t hesitate to move someone out of the way to do it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 13, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Head Back to Sonoma

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

After more than a year, the NASCAR Cup teams head back to the road course at Sonoma. It will be a challenge and it will be very much business as usual. What I mean by that is that there will be no practice and no qualifying. One good thing though… they will be running the longer course with the carousel and that’s the same one they ran the last time they were at Sonoma.

The most mentioned names – and of course the favorites to watch for the win – are Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott. Since these are the two that seem to have road courses mastered recently, I guess their standings as favorites is valid. Since they are the most obvious ones to watch, I may talk about them more later but, I would rather move on at the moment.

First on my list and with the way the Hendrick teams have been performing over the last several weeks in particular, this fan can’t help but think there are three others besides Chase with a good chance to take the win on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Larson is starting on the pole and could very well keep on running at or near the front and end up in Victory Lane.

Another from the Hendrick camp hard for me to rule out is William Byron. He has run well almost every weekend and on every kind of track so, why shouldn’t he be on the list of ones to watch on Sunday afternoon? Well, from this fan’s view, he is on that list and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he didn’t take his second win of the 2021 season. Not saying he will, just saying it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.

In keeping with the Hendrick Camp for now, I can’t rule out the possibility of Alex Bowman winning either. Although his strength is not necessarily on road courses, he does have two wins and this could be his breakout weekend on a road course. Do I expect it? Not really but I’m not ruling it out either.

Unfortunately for the Hendrick camp, they don’t have a lock on winning races. As an organization HMS has been running very good and showing a lot of strength but, there are several other drivers and teams that have a great opportunity to win this weekend. Some of those need a win to solidify their spots in trying to get to the playoffs. Sure, I know there are eleven races left to make it but, time has a tendency to run out, especially if there is a struggle with performance. From my view, several teams have shown strength but have not had much consistency. That’s not to say they won’t find what they need to start running up front, but it is also not to say they will. After all, the Hendrick teams struggled for a couple of years before they started running the way they have this season.

In my opinion, the Gibbs teams could be the ones to break out this weekend at Sonoma. Kyle Bush has shown the most in the last couple of weeks but, Denny Hamlin may be struggling and he still manages to finish most races in the top ten even though no win yet. Does that mean he is my pick to win this weekend? No, not all. I’m just saying consistency pays off and his chances of winning are good if he continues consistently running at or near the front. Of course we all know Martin Truex Jr. is part of that camp along with Christopher Bell and he already has a road course win this season.

This is where it becomes a bit more difficult. There are a number of drivers that show a lot of road course prowess and, though there are a number of them, it is hard to say which of them might pull off the victory at Sonoma. It could be difficult because the ones I’m thinking of are spread out over several teams and because there are a number of good road course racers in the Cup series now. I could probably start right here and name of a number of drivers I think could win, but instead, let me just mention a few.

There is really no way to not mention someone like Kevin Harvick. I know his road course record may not look all that good but he is still someone that can and has won on a road course. If for no other reason, that is why I mention him here. Along with him at SHR are a couple of young guns named Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer. Although I’m not expecting them to win, they could and not many would be surprised.

Probably the biggest surprise of those struggling this season would be Team Penske. without going into a long dissertation here, let’s just say Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney or Brad Keselowski might take it to the rest of the field and end up in Victory Lane. Of course another strong road course racer, also in a Ford, would be Michael McDowell. Would it be a shock to see him end up in Victory Lane Sunday afternoon? Yeah, it probably would but it isn’t outside the realm of possibilities.

You see, that’s why I think the race at Sonoma this weekend is going to be so interesting. With all of the possibilities from so many different drivers and teams, it is just could be one of the most interesting road course races of the year. No one is guaranteed to win and no one is guaranteed to lose.

So… what do you think? Do you think there will be a repeat winner, a different winner or a first-time career winner at Sonoma this Sunday afternoon? Yeah, that’s kinda what I thought you’d say…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 05, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The 2021 Coca-Cola 600 At Charlotte

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There are a few differences for the race this weekend at The Charlotte Motor Speedway. For starters, they got to practice and they get to qualify. For some, just the fact that they got to spend fifty minutes of practice and try some different setups may make a big difference when they take to the track late Sunday afternoon and into the night. For others, well…

As a NASCAR fan and having been an owner/driver at local tracks, I have not missed the hours of practice they used to get. Of course, I know many of you will say, “So what?!?! You were just small time and local. These are the best drivers in the world and they need the track time.”

Well… that is precisely my point in making the statement I just did. You see, I have enjoyed the racing quite a bit more since they have had that little-to-no track time before they hit it for the race. From my view, the lack of practice and qualifying has been somewhat of an equalizer. In some ways, it is just like local racing. We didn’t get hours of practice. We did get some time on race night but, for the most part, we did kinda have to run what we arrived with and really didn’t have much time to make major changes.

It has been interesting to see how some drivers and teams have adapted to the way things changed due to the “pandemic” and it also has become obvious which of them seemed to depend on that extra track time and how not having it has affected their performance. No matter though, they have risen to the challenge. Even though it might take a few pit stops, they usually get their cars tweaked to the way they need it to be more competitive. Personally, I think it just adds to the drama that unfolds during the race.

Okay, that’s enough of that for now.

Memorial Day weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the special weekends in a NASCAR season. It is a very patriotic weekend commemorating the men and women in the military that gave their lives for while in serving this country. Many cars will be sporting paint schemes specifically for this weekend and it will be a time of honoring and remembering those fallen heroes.

This year’s race will still be 600 miles but could have a different face show up in Victory Lane. Martin Truex Jr. has often been mentioned as one of the ones to watch this weekend and he does have outstanding stats for this track, especially in recent years. Truex has had a very decent year so far but, he has struggled at times. whether or not this weekend will be one of domination or struggle remains to be seen and, from this fan’s view, it could go either way.

Kyle Larson is another name that has been mentioned often for this weekend and for good reasons. He has had a number of second place finishes this season along with one win. It seems every weekend, they show up with a car and driver ready to run up front and, if things had gone his way, he could already have multiple wins. Yes, he is that fast and he could take the win when it’s done.

I’m not sure but, with the way the Hendrick teams have been running, there are three other possible winners from that camp. All of them have been running strong recently and Chase Elliott, William Byron or Alex Bowman could just as easily end up in Victory Lane at the end of the 600 miles. As usual, 600 miles is a long time and anything could happen but, the Hendrick teams have to be considered as possible winners of this one.

With the extra track time for practice, (uh, all fifty minutes of it), there could be some tighter competition from certain drivers and teams. A couple in particular, at least form my view, would be Denny Hamlin and Kyle Bush. In particular, I’m thinking the extra time to tweak on his car would benefit Kyle Bush since he has often mentioned how much he missed being able to practice. I’m not making any kind of statement here, just stating the facts as I understand them. As for Denny Hamlin, well, I’m just not sure if he will win, but he could. He has been running really well this season and, as many have stated over and over in recent weeks, he is due for a win. It may not happen this weekend, but…

When it comes to the Stewart/Haas and Richard Childress teams, I guess the best thing I can say is they do show promising speed so far this weekend so how could this fan discount their possibilities for a win Sunday night. There are also some smaller teams that could surprise all of us by taking a win Sunday night.

So, after all is said and done, the questions still remain. Will there be another first time winner in 2021 or will someone totally unexpected make the trip to Victory Lane and add to the ever-shrinking list of spots available to make the top sixteen for the playoffs? That my friends is a question I don’t have an answer for at this moment but, I’m sure it will be answered by the end of 600 miles in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 29, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take On COTA For The First Time

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Let’s see… the Cup teams are taking on a road course called Circuit of the Americas (uh, that’s COTA for short) and it is a brand-new notebook for them. At least they get fifty minutes of practice to get a start on it. Another thing that might help is that there will be qualifying on the same day as race day. That may or may not be a help for some that need to have a good day on a road course.

If you’ve been paying attention to all the talk about the Truck and Xfinity races, some of the Cup drivers are taking advantage of the extra track time that will afford. I guess we will see how that works out. I’m guessing it will help some but I’m not so sure it will change the outcome on Sunday afternoon.

As a fan, there are a lot of things about this track that should make for a very interesting race on Sunday afternoon. I know you already know all this stuff, but looking at the track facts, there is an elevation change of one hundred and thirty-three feet. There are 20 turns, eleven of which are left hand turns and nine are right handers. If you’ve been listening to the talking heads over the last several weeks, you’ve heard them describe this track as a very technical track. In my terms, that means there are some things you can do and get away with it and there are some that will burn you if you step over the line.

Taking a quick look back at last weekend at Dover, how about the performance of the Hendrick teams. Alex Bowman becoming the second multi-race winner in this 2021 NASCAR Cup season followed by his teammates, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and William Byron. That gave the Hendrick teams the top four spots at the end of the day and what an accomplishment that was. Still, Chase Elliott has no win this season even though he has been performing relatively well.

Of course, you’ve heard the chatter about how there is no reason to be concerned for the 2020 Champ to stay winless because the last half of the season is where he has performed better in previous years. That may very well be the case again this season. Since he has shown himself to be the relative master on road courses, this being a road course just might be his time to shine. There are those that say if he doesn’t get it done on COTA, he still has several other road courses to get that elusive win this season and several other tracks he can take a win, and maybe more, before the regular season ends.

Although Chase is very good on road courses, there is no guarantee he will end up as the victor on Sunday. There are several others known to be good road course drivers and any one of them could make it to Victory Lane in this inaugural race at the Circuit of the Americas. To name a few, how about the names of veterans like Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Bush, Kurt Bush, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and a number of newer ones able to win on a road course? This being the first visit to this track for most if not all, anybody could win this one.

The other wrinkle that may help decide the race winner would be the weather. Depending on which weather service you check, tomorrow may be a rainy day and it may have lightning included, which could throw an even further wrinkle into the mix. I’m not exactly sure at the time of this writing but, it could be a long and rainy time of racing for the Cup teams.

With NASCAR making the addition of rain tires and running on the rainy and wet track, it could change the whole way the drivers attack the course. Some may struggle because they won’t be able to attack the turns the way they would like to get an advantage in the passing zones. This is where things get shady for me as a fan. Since I don’t understand or know the way NASCAR will make decisions when it comes to rain and lightning, I don’t know just how it can, or will, affect the race. Will there be something that can cause them to cancel and continue on another day? I suppose there might be light or heavy time of rain and there will likely be times of no rain at all.

I do suppose they will do there darndest to have the race and have it be a full race. We can’t discount that there may be a time they call the race official even though they only make it to halfway or further. Yeah, I realize they always do what they can to have a fully completed race but, this is a circumstance they don’t often have to face. Unless there is a definite pattern to follow, it will likely be decisions made lap-by-lap until they either can or can’t continue.

Personally, I hope they get to race and that the track stays relatively dry and racy throughout the afternoon. As fans, we just want to watch an interesting race. If it rains a lot during the race, there just may not be much passing going on. It will likely be a race that will be decided by strategy and, with the weather uncertainty, I still say anybody can win this one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 22, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Throwback Weekend At Darlington

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Darlington is one of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR circuit. It’s been around a long time. Along with all of those years, are a lot of memories that cover a lot of cars and drivers from the distant past to the present. Also, along with those cars and drivers were various and memorable paint designs and colors that were unique to the various teams and times. Many of them even dressed their pit crews in varying and unique types of clothes that set them apart from the others. But then, you already know all of that because you’ve been hearing about it again and again, in particular, over the last several weeks.

Throwback weekend is a time that the NASCAR teams honor people, cars, paint schemes from the past and also things from the present that the drivers and crews want to represent. All of it is based on memories either from their favorite drivers, teams, or car paint schemes and colors to represent those things and memories from either NASCAR’s past or their own. It is an interesting and nostalgic time for everyone involved, including the fans both old and new.

If I may, I’d like to go throwback for a moment or two to last week’s race at Kansas. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am glad Kyle Bush managed to pull out the victory but, in all honesty, I would have rather see the person that led the most laps and had the best car all race long, win. Of course, you know that was the other Kyle, Kyle Larson. Had the last laps of the race not gone the way they did with several cautions and he had not lost position before the last caution, I really do think he would have won. It would have been great had he won if, for no other reason, the tribute of the car paint scheme, etc. to Rick Hendrick’s son, Ricky. Sadly, the plane crash that took Ricky’s life also took the life of several family and others associated with the Hendrick family. It was a sad day when that happened years ago and, to this long-time fan, it would have been a great finish to this race a Kansas to see Larson come away with the victory. It didn’t happen that way though and I still congratulate Kyle Bush; he has his own life challenges to contend with.

Now, back to Darlington…

So far this season, we have eleven races and ten different winners. A lot of the talk this week has been about whether or not there will be an eleventh winner in these first twelve races. It is an interesting question and one that will definitely be answered when the final checkered flag falls on the Goodyear 400 on Sunday. In addition, a lot of conversation has talked about how fast the top sixteen is filling up for the playoffs. When it fills up, then it falls back on wins and points. That could spell disaster for of the teams that are already in but haven’t necessarily performed all that well along with their win. I still wonder, as I did last week, if NASCAR will change anything for the playoffs for this year or maybe in the future. I guess it really depends on how fair this present system works out for everyone.

There are still at least three top drivers and teams that don’t have a win yet this season even though many thought they would already have at least one or two. I know you already know their names but, let me mention them anyway. The ones I’m thinking of are Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott. Sure, I know there are others but these three are at the top of just about everyone’s list.

The Stewart-Haas teams, of which Kevin Harvick is a part, just haven’t seemed to start clicking on all cylinders yet. That is unexpected since Kevin won so many races last season. That’s not to say they will stay that way but, in this fan’s opinion, it just isn’t what people expected. I’m no expert but I do wonder if they were preparing for the introduction of the Next Gen cars for next year. I’ll answer my own question here and say, probably not. Since the Next Gen cars were delayed until next year at Daytona after the pandemic hit, it is possible but not at all likely. I think they are just going through a little dry spell but, I am sure they’ll come out of it soon.

As for Chase Elliott, well, this is not the first time he has struggled a bit during the early part of the season. He usually performs well later in the season but, in this fan’s opinion and with the way things are going this season, they need to pick it up sooner than later. They do have points but if the playoffs keep filling up the way they have been, trying to get in without a win might not get them in.

Even though there are others that haven’t won yet this season though some expected them to, Denny Hamlin is still the most talked about driver without a win. He has the most points and has run strong almost every week and yet, he hasn’t won even though he had a number of wins last season also. Many think he could pull off the win he’s looking for at Darlington. When it comes to this fan, well, I’m just not so sure his troubles are over just yet. When they are, I suppose he could be a multi-race winner again this season.

When it comes to this fan’s view, I think there will be an eleventh different winner this weekend. Whether it will be one of the expected ones or someone completely unexpected, I just don’t know…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 8, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

400 Miles At Kansas Speedway Is Next

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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It appears to this fan, the talk this week has centered more around Joey Logano’s accident at Talladega and Bar BQ. I find it fascinating that Bar BQ seems to enter almost every conversation I’ve heard about this weekend’s race and that includes the talking heads on TV and elsewhere. Yeah, I know all about Bar BQ and Kansas Speedway but I do find it a little confusing as to why it seems to enter almost every conversation about this weekend’s race. I thought it was supposed to be about 400 miles at one of the toughest 1.5 mile tracks on the NASCAR Cup circuit. (Notice I did say, “one of the toughtest.”)

Another thing I find interesting concerns the accident involving Joey Logano. Since he was the one involved and his car was the one floating up in the air and landing hard on its roof and then righting itself back onto all four wheels, I understand why he likely said what he did being interviewed immediately after. When a car weighing 3400 lbs. lands directly on its roof, something has to give and one bar in particular showed a possible weakness that may need a correction of some sort. What that correction might be is yet to be addressed but, in usual NASCAR fashion, they will work on it until they make it safer than it already is.

That appeared to be the main thing that caught Joey’s attention and probably prompted his comments about how Superspeedway racing needs to change. From this fan’s view, I do find it interesting that when an accident of that type happens with him being the main character, NASCAR needs to change that type of rules package. This is just my opinion but, I didn’t hear him saying so much when he went to block on the final lap of the Daytona 500 and helped put his teammate, Brad Keselowski into the fence.

What happened in both of those situations IS a product of Superspeedway racing these days and everyone knows that going in. In fact, everyone involved knows racing is a dangerous sport and not everything can be controlled by changing a rules package. Logano uses all of the tricks used to try and win on a Superspeedway and he understands the sport he is involved in is dangerous and that, sometimes, the cars do unpredictable things. I know he will get over it and continue on. I think he probably received a reminder wake-up call as to just how unpredictable and dangerous motorsports can be. I do agree with him in the sense there is a weakness on the driver side of the cage. I am also confident NASCAR will find a remedy for that in the not-to-distant future.

(Okay, that’s enough about last weekend at Talladega and I promise, I won’t be talking any more about Bar BQ.)

Other than the things I mentioned earlier, the biggest topic of conversation is whether or not there will be another first-time winner for this season, another first-time winner in their cup career or a repeat winner. So far, there have been nine different winners out of the first ten races with Martin Truex Jr. being the only winner of multiple races this season. As I asked in an earlier article a while ago, what happens if we have more than sixteen winners before the playoffs? Will they consider changing the rules so that all winners can be qualified by their win or will they just consider the ones with wins and highest points? I ask that question as a fan and out of curiosity because I really don’t know what they will actually do. It just may be that we find out if things continue as they have all season.

There are several drivers that have good records at the Kansas Speedway and some of them don’t have a win yet this season. You know their names because you hear them mentioned all the time but, I will mention a few that immediately jump into my mind. Of course, I don’t expect there will be any you haven’t thought of already.

Probably the first one on everyone’s mind would be Denny Hamlin. He does have more points than anyone else this season and yet he doesn’t have a win. Many think this will be his weekend to change all that but this fan isn’t so sure. I could be wrong but, sometimes, it just doesn’t happen the way some think it should. Denny has often had a good season and still not had things go his way. I’m not saying that his bad racing luck will continue but, he may be in for a bit more of a dry spell before he wins.

Denny isn’t alone when it comes to drivers many thought would already have a win. To mention a few there’s, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott and Kyle Bush. All have decent performances at Kansas and all are former Cup Champions and yet they have not won yet this season. I admit I am as surprised as anyone but I also think one of them could come away with the win this weekend. I know there are those that disagree with me on that and I also admit there are others that can win and that’s what makes choosing a possible winner for this weekend so difficult.

When it comes down to it, I have those I would like to see win and those – well, how do I say this nicely? – those I would prefer didn’t…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 1, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Taking On Talladega

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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When the NASCAR Cup teams take on the Talladega Super Speedway, there’s not a lot that can be said that’s new about Talladega but then, why should there be. Talladega has always been a weekend many look forward to and this one is no different. I guess the real question is will it be the “same old, same old” or will it be something even more than the usual door handle to door handle, bumper to bumper chess match. There is a lot about Talladega that doesn’t change but some things do and that’s what makes it such an interesting race, especially when the Cup teams take to the track.

So why would I even mention that Talladega could be the “same old, same old?” Well, to be honest, that statement can be taken a little differently than it might sound at first take. You see, Talladega is as unpredictable as any race can be in NASCAR and that can easily make the statement, “same old, same old” ring true no matter how you look at it. There is nothing about Talladega that can be foreseen other than, to win, someone has to miss the “Big One” or big ones and make it to the final checkered flag ahead of the rest.

Much of the talk this week has been about which of the drivers without a win this season might be the one to take home the trophy. Of course, the usual conversations have centered around those that usually seem to end up with a good finish at the Super Speedway and it is true. There are some that do seem to have a special talent for Super Speedways and some that seem to understand them even better than others. However, that does not mean any of them will be the one taking the victory. What it does mean is, this one, like most of the ones before it, won’t be decided until they cross the finish line on the last lap.

The First name that seems to come up for possibly winning the Geico 500 at would be Denny Hamlin. As I said last week, he has done everything but win this season. He has the best finishing average and he does start on the pole Sunday afternoon. Starting on the pole doesn’t really mean all that much when it comes to Talladega. Someone can start on the front row and immediately drop to the back until late in the race. Of course, no one is saying Denny will do that this weekend but it wouldn’t be the first time he has laid back waiting to pounce late in the race. From my view, I don’t think we’ll actually know until the race starts what he will actually do and it won’t be until the end we find out if his strategy works.

Now, from this fan’s view, I do think it is possible Hamlin could win on Sunday but, I’m not quite ready to declare him the victor. There are too many possibilities to do that before they drop the green flag. Several other names come to mind when I consider which of them cross the finish line at the end of the day. Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush and Chase Elliott are some names that immediately pop into my mind of possible winners of this one. All of them have shown they have what it takes to win at a Super Speedway and all of them have a number of wins in the Cup series. It’s just that they haven’t won yet this season in a points race.

Personally, my first choice as a possible winner this weekend is a toss-up between Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. Yeah, I know I’m going against the odds makers that have pretty much chosen Denny Hamlin and lean heavily toward a couple of the others but, I’m just not ready to jump on that band wagon yet. That’s not to say Denny won’t win but, from this fan’s view, I’m leaning towards Brad and Chase.

Now, just because I’ve put them at the front of my choices, doesn’t mean they’re locks to win. There are just too many things that can go wrong and just about anyone can get caught up in someone else’s mistake or problem. Besides that, there are just too many that have a chance to win whether they are well known names or some not-so-well known. Just look at the list of drivers and pick one. You know, names like Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and the list goes on and on.

I’m sure you can add names to that list and your choice is as good as anyone’s. The important thing to keep in mind is that survival is the biggest key to winning at Talladega. It may not be so much making the right choices or having the right strategy. Pit stops can make or break a good finish and penalties should be avoided at all costs. Of course, we can’t overlook that ever-present thing called racing luck either. Sometimes it just helps to be the one enjoying the positive benefits of racing luck. When it comes down to the last lap, if you’re still in it, you could still win it.

That’s what makes races like this one at Talladega so interesting to watch. Anything can go wrong and anyone can win. You never know when the Big One might strike or whether there will be more than one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 24, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take It To Richmond

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Cup teams take it to Richmond this weekend and that makes three short tracks in a row for this 2021 NASCAR Cup Season. There is something different about this weekend though; Martin Truex Jr comes into this weekend as the first repeat winner this season and Richmond is a place he usually has a strong performance. That may or may not mean something, especially if that thing called momentum actually shows itself to mean something this weekend.

In reality, there is no guarantee Truex will have another good weekend and there is no guarantee he will walk away from this weekend with a win. Yes, he has had strong performances over the last few years but, in racing, momentum and that thing called “racing luck” can turn on a dime.

There are a few other factors that may go against him this weekend. One of the biggest is there are several other drivers that usually perform well at Richmond and any one of them could take the win this weekend. Beside the fact they usually perform well at Richmond, they are all hungry for their first win of the 2021 season. Of course I know you’ve likely been hearing their names all week long but, I’d like to repeat the ones I’m thinking of at the moment. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Bush and, of course, Kyle Bush. All of these drivers have consistently finished in the top ten numerous times over the last several years and, barring unforeseen happenings, they are generally expected to do the same this weekend.

So… other than Martin Truex Jr, which of the drivers I just listed has the best chance to finish at or near the front by race end? From this fan’s view, I think the first name that pops is Denny Hamlin. In this 2021 season, he has been the most consistent finisher and has the points to prove it. He has pretty much done everything but win this season so far. Does that mean I’m picking him to win this Sunday afternoon? Nope, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I just saying he is one of the most likely to finish the day at or near the front. I’m just not so sure his time has arrived.

When it comes to Kurt Bush, he has had a relatively disappointing year so far and I’m not sure he is ready to break out of his rut yet. Of course, I could be wrong but, I think they are in for a bit of a struggle to turn things around this weekend. The same goes for Kevin Harvick. He just hasn’t shown his usual strength yet this season. I think if you asked him, he would agree. Things just haven’t totally clicked for them yet.

I expect Brad Keselowski will have one of two types of days this Sunday. Either he will run up front and possibly even win or, he will get caught up in someone else’s problem and end up with a bad day. Now, I know that’s not a pleasant thought for him or his fans but, unfortunately, it does appear to be the way his season has gone up to this point. Don’t count him out though. He could turn it around on Sunday.

That brings us to Kyle Bush. From this fan’s view, it could go either way for him on Sunday afternoon. Kyle just hasn’t looked like usual Kyle this season. He has struggled almost every week and this may be just another frustrating race for him. Why has he struggled so much the last two seasons? Well… I would like to offer my opinion and it is strictly from observing him and forming an opinion that could be totally wrong.

You see, considering there has been no or very little practice or qualifying the last two seasons, I think he is one that depends on those two things to tweak his car to his liking more than others do. He has even admitted to this recently and I do think it has something to do with his performance over these last two seasons. Now remember, before you get all upset, this is just MY OPINION and, as things stand right now, I’m entitled to that, right? I guess he could prove me wrong by winning this weekend but, I’m not so sure that’s the way it’s going to go down…

Even though it pains me to say it, I think the Chevys have their work cut out for themselves this weekend. Sure, I know they could show me something this weekend but, I’m just not so sure they will. I may be sticking my neck out a little but I do think they have a chance, especially the Hendrick Chevys. Chase Elliott, William Byron, Kyle Larson and, yes, Alex Bowman could step up and surprise everyone this weekend. It’s not that they haven’t had the speed in my opinion but, they have just not shown the consistency in recent weeks. We all know Chase and Alex have had their share of bad luck and mistakes but, they have also had times they’ve shown they could win “if only” certain things hadn’t happened the way they did. The performance has been there, they just haven’t put it to good use. This weekend could be a turnaround for the two Hendrick teams that haven’t taken a win yet but, from this fan’s view, a lot is going to have to go right for them and, as I said earlier, they do have their work cut out for them…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 17, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Saturday Night Short Tracking At Martinsville

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well… It’s another Saturday night at Martinsville. Put another way, just another Saturday night under lights at the short track known as the Martinsville Speedway and Martinsville is Martinsville and will always be Martinsville. It has been around a long time (it’s the oldest on the NASCAR circuit) and it is a favorite for fans and drivers alike. No, not everyone likes but everyone tolerates it and everyone does enjoy the challenge it offers every time NASCAR visits the legendary track.

What makes Martinsville so challenging? Think about it for a moment. It is a short track – the shortest on the circuit – and the cars are 3400 pounds, the track is almost flat and the competition is always intense. Along with the intensity comes the tightness of the competition, 500 laps of “rubbing is racing,” bumpers used and, at some point, someone (or several someones) will have enough of the beating and banging and is going to lose their temper. As they often say at just about every track on a Saturday night under the lights, “That’s just short track racing!” After spending many years at our local tracks as an owner/driver, I can assure you I know what they mean. There’s just nothing like short track racing on a Saturday night.

Now before moving on to talking about how I think the racing will go at Martinsville tonight, I would like to express my opinion of the dirt race at Bristol…

After listening to so many different people talk about the latest race at Bristol, several things stood out to me. Look, I grew up around dirt tracks in Southern Illinois and loved it. When I moved to Florida with my parents in 1962, it didn’t take my dad and I long to find a racetrack that, at first, we could listen to on the radio on Saturday nights. We often tuned in but couldn’t really frequent the tracks in person and we definitely couldn’t afford to build a racecar. After several years that all changed. There were two tracks in our area in SW Florida and we eventually built a car and raced. They were both asphalt short tracks and both were a lot of fun. We raced, we won, we lost, we wrecked and we repaired or rebuilt. It was all part of the experience.

As for Bristol on the dirt, well, I don’t know if it was because I was watching it on TV or for some other reason. What stood out to me was the people that talked about it in the most positive way were drivers (new and old) watching and wishing they could have been out there. I’m sure I might get a rise out of some but, it just wasn’t that exciting for me, at least from where I was sitting. From my view, the racing was just mediocre and almost the whole time, the one out front pretty much stayed there unless something caused a caution or a restart. There just wasn’t that much going on in long green flag runs and it became a bit uneventful, bordering on boring. Now, like I said, that’s just the way I saw it. I’m glad others liked it but it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

Now when it comes to Martinsville tonight, I know it will be the usual race for this place but there will also be a lot of intensity with bumper to bumper, door to door short track racing. There will be emotions surfacing and paybacks and bumpers used, whether from old grudges or from a night of regular short track racing.

One thing that always comes up (at least this year) is will there be another new winner for this year or will it be someone that’s already won this season?

I’m of the opinion it could go either way tonight. There are several that have already won this year that could pull off another win tonight. There are also more than a couple that haven’t won this season but are very good at Martinsville. To name a few would be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott. Any one of these could end up with their first victory of the season and make it eight for eight on the season.

Did I neglect to mention there are others that could win tonight? You know as well as I do there are several that haven’t won this season and several that have that could end up in Victory Lane. I expect Kyle and Kurt Bush would be at or near the top of this list for me. Kyle is looking for something to go right this year and Kurt would just like to finish up front instead of falling back at the wrong time.

I could go on and on naming possible winners but there is really no purpose at this point. Let’s face it… this is going to be a night of tight racing on a tight short track with a lot of very competitive drivers and several that need a win. Taking that into account, I expect there will be a lot of hard charging drivers that won’t hesitate to move someone out of the way, especially when it comes down to the final laps. There will likely be a lot of cautions and a hefty amount of emotions on display. With those emotions will come some reactionary moves that won’t make some very happy. From this fan’s view, I expect that will make this Saturday night at a short track under the lights a very interesting one indeed…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 10, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Dirt Tracking Bristol

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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So… NASCAR Cup cars are taking it back to the dirt. That’s something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. I know you’ve heard all about the history of NASCAR on dirt since they decided to make Bristol a dirt track for this year’s race so I won’t repeat all that. It interesting though, 3400 pound racecars on a dirt track for the first time in ages. It is definitely something that should prove to be interesting and drama filled, especially since it is “Bristol Baby!”

The first things that came to my mind when I heard about it was, are they going to make any major changes to the cars to run on dirt since they haven’t done it in so long and what will they do if it rains? Well, the answer to the first question is in the hands of NASCAR and the second answer is, “I don’t know.”

I’ve heard many say they think the drivers that have a lot of dirt track experience will have an advantage over the rest of the field. I have also heard many say they think the advantage will go to those with little to no dirt experience but have natural talent for the dirt. When it comes to this fan’s view, I think there will be a lot of things that figure into the final results and one of those will be how fast the drivers adapt to the difference of racing on dirt. Dirt and asphalt may have some similarities but, the two are not the same in setup or in the way the two are driven.

When I think about NASCAR Cup teams dirt track racing, I go back to when I was growing up in Southern Illinois. In my hometown, we actually had two dirt tracks. Both of them were frequented by drivers from all over the state of Illinois and the racing was always exciting. I even remember watching some of the older drivers on what I remember as the one mile dirt track at the fairgrounds at Duquoin, IL. it was also where they raced the Sulkies and other horse racing. Admittedly, that was a very long time ago and I was just a kid at the time so some things are a bit faded but, I do remember there were some big names in racing at that time there. Most of you wouldn’t know them even if I told you.

Needless to say, I still have a lot of questions of how the racing will go on Sunday afternoon. Now that they’ve had trucks and cars on the track, I have to wonder if they will do some work to the track itself. At the time of this writing, I had only seen the practice sessions and was surprised at the amount of dust being generated by the cars on the track, especially at the final practice session. I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually been to a dirt track but, I don’t remember my hometown tracks having so much dust in the air even when they had special events in the hot summer afternoons. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there wasn’t dust being thrown up in the air at those times. I’m just saying I don’t remember it. I also know the tracks were awfully slippery to walk on and I was surprised to find that out when we would visit the pits after a race.

Another one of those first things to enter my mind when I heard about Bristol going to dirt was, how well prepared are the teams to deal with dirt clogging things up and causing overheating and other problems. What I saw in the last practice session showed an awfully large amount of dust in the air and it made me wonder if it was going to clog the radiators or the air filters and how the teams might have prepared for that. During that last practice session, Kyle Larson overheated his engine and will have to start in the rear on Sunday. Another problem it seemed many were combating was the amount of tire wear and were trying to think of how they were going to correct that so they could make them last the stages, in particular the last one.

You see, things like that will be the deciding factors in which of them might end up in Victory Lane. It will be a whole new ball game when it comes to tire management and keeping track of the water temperature and other assorted items they may not have had to pay all that close attention to when on a track other than a dirt track. Oh sure, they have to keep track of all those things on a regular basis week in and week out but, this dirt track thing is going to tax them to the limit. Add to that the fact this is Bristol and you know what kind of a day it’s going to be for many of them. Emotions will be high. Bumpers will be used and there will likely be some anger issues surface at some time or other. Those that have better control of their tempers and emotions will likely come out ahead.

This fan thinks at the end of the day, the winner will be the one that managed his tires the best and the one that kept his cool when it counted. I also believe it may not have as much to do with speed as with lasting till the final lap. From this fan’s view, I believe this will be a very unique experience for all involved, a return to what many will remember as their roots growing up. Whether it’s fan’s or drivers and teams, I’m sure many have questions and theories of how things will go but, I think the real proof will be when the race is going on and when it is done. Whatever the case at the end of the day, I’ll be watching…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 27, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take It To Vegas

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Cup teams take it to Las Vegas this weekend. The most asked question for this weekend appears to be, “Will there be another NASCAR first time winner at the Vegas track?” I believe it is a valid question, especially with the way this 2021 season has started. In the first two races there were two unexpected and first-time winners and in the third, a driver getting his second career win. This isn’t news to you NASCAR fans out there but, it is interesting to consider as the Cup teams take to the Vegas track on Sunday afternoon.

Since the drivers that have been around the Cup Series for a while haven’t been winning in this early part of the season, most of the talk has centered around the “young guns” or Michael McDowell, a fourteen-year veteran, winning his first Cup race, the Daytona 500. That is all well and good but, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Circumstances have played a large part in the final results of the first three races but that doesn’t take away from the effort and talent of the winners. This fan wonders if this trend will continue or whether things will begin to round out a bit.

Now, listen. I’m not saying I expect things to change. I am saying it has been an interesting start to the season and it adds an unexpected dimension to what will take place at playoff time. Three drivers have already qualified themselves into the playoffs by winning and that means only thirteen spots remain. It does appear there is going to be some intense racing ahead as drivers try to get into victory lane to qualify themselves into the top sixteen rather than try to point their way in. With that in mind, it does add a whole new take on the twenty-three remaining points races of the season.

The Vegas track is home to the Bush brothers and some expect them to be strong choices for winning this one. I suppose they could but, I’m not so sure it’s going to be that easy to choose a winner from either of them. Both of them have proven they can run well at this track and both of them can win. In fact, they’ve both won at the track but, for a hometown track, it hasn’t been one they get easy wins. Each of them has only won once so neither of them is a shew in for this weekend.
From this fan’s view, it appears there is more of a focus on those stronger teams that are struggling to get good performances. You know, someone like Matt DiBenedetto and the Woods Brothers. Just for a moment, I’d like to theoretically compare Matt to last week’s winner, William Byron. Byron’s start to the year was very lackluster even though it really wasn’t all his fault. In the 500, he go caught up in accidents and, at the road course, he just didn’t perform all that well. There was nothing pointing to his winning at Homestead but win he did. From this fan’s view, the same could happen for Matt even though I still think he is a longshot for this weekend. (And, by the way, if I am wrong, I can live with that…)
Some others on the possible win list (other than those “young guns”) would be past good performers like Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Any one of these three could be in Victory Lane when the day is done. Kevin Harvick starts on the pole (well, as long as they pass inspection) and it could prove to be very good for him. Of course, I can’t rule out what has happened to front row starters this season. Being qualified by the metrics on the front row and starting on the front row are two different things this year. It’s just not a given come race day.
Just look at that starting lineup for Sunday. The top ten is full of proven performers and possible winners. Byron, last week’s winner, on the front row, Larson, Truex, McDowell, Hamlin, Kurt Bush and Chase Elliott in the rows behind. I won’t mention the rest of them by name but the top twenty or twenty-five spots are filled with ones many look at as possible winners on Sunday afternoon.

What I expect for the race at Vegas on Sunday is an intense race for stage points and the same for the final laps. There is just too much at stake these days for the drivers to not be aggressive and emotional. I also expect there might be more than a little pushing and shoving going on and we all know what that can lead to. Yep, you got it. Carnage and possibly at the worst time for those that need a really good finish and chance to turn their season around.

When it comes right down to it, Vegas is a tough track and a track that can bring out high emotions, depending on how things go. I don’t know there will be fisticuffs but there have been in the past. I don’t know if there will be another first-time winner in 2021 but, there could be. I won’t even chance a guess at which of them might win because it’s all going to depend on no mistakes, pit performance and strategy.

Well… maybe I will chance a guess of which of them will win but I don’t think it will be what you expect. I think the one that wins will be the one that crosses the finish line ahead of the rest.

Gee… that sounds like a pretty safe bet… doesn’t it? After all, it is Vegas…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 6, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take On Homestead For Race Three

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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It’s the third week of the 2021 NASCAR season and it is the third week in a row in the state of Florida. Considering the way things have gone so far, does anyone out there think we could have a third first time winner in this, the third race of the season? Well, from this fan’s view, I actually would be surprised if that happened since this is kind of return to a normal track that so many previous winners can win at.

Okay, so what do I mean by “kind of a return to a normal track?” Well, I’m just thinking about what I have heard several say during this last week. This is a track that is normal in the sense it is one of the mile and a half tracks that many races of the previous seasons have been made up of. There are more than a few previous winners that can and have won at this track or others and I don’t really see why they wouldn’t be the obvious ones to choose from.

Since this is NASCAR Cup and this has been a completely unexpected start to the 2021 season as far as winners go, I may have to backtrack on that statement. I have heard it said over and over again that the Homestead track drives much like a dirt track. If that is true, it would only follow that those with strong performances at dirt tracks in their background may have a good possibility of winning at Homestead. Unfortunately for the younger and newer drivers in the field, some of the Cup veterans have a lot of experience running and winning on dirt. That being said, I don’t think there will be a third, first time, winner in this race but I can’t rule it out.

Taking a quick look back at last week’s road course race at Daytona says having the best car, leading the most laps and pretty much passing cars at will, doesn’t guarantee a win. Chase Elliott proved that beyond a doubt. He had all of the above and yet he still finished twenty first. It was that last caution that got him into trouble and then, a bad decision or two, and he was done. It did turn out good for Christopher Bell though. He drove past Joey Logano and took his first victory in Cup in only his second start with Joe Gibbs Racing. Once again, the old adage proved true. It’s not how you start and it’s not how you run all race long, it’s how you finish.

So… returning to racing at Homestead in February. There is something to be said for having all three of the first race weekends in Florida. For one, it means they don’t have to adapt to any drastic differences in temperature or climate. Other than that, Homestead is a challenging track for all and a track that normally mandates running up near the fence, just like in dirt track racing. That’s probably why so many think the drivers that have a lot of dirt track experience will have an advantage.

Of course, this is the year 2021 and this fan wonders if anything can even be a return to normal. We’re still kinda in the pandemic mode. There’s no practice and no qualifying and a largely reduced number of fan’s in the stands and the lineup is done by the metrics. There isn’t really anything this fan likes about lining up according to the way you finish in previous races, but it is the way it is and the way it will be for most of the season.
I know we all got used to it last season, so it is no big deal but, it really isn’t the way things should be. I can’t say I miss the practice sessions but I do miss the qualifying. (Well… at least a little.) Qualifying was part of the competition for race day. That was where someone could make up for not-so-great previous performances and give themselves an advantage to do better in a race and possibly make up some points. Sure, I know qualifying has very little to do with performance on race day but, having a good pit stall can be a big plus when it comes down to it.

Just take a look at the race lineup for Sunday afternoon. Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano will start on the front row (if they pass inspection with no penalties) and everyone else starts behind them. Denny Hamlin is one of the favorites to win and, with his pit location because of the metrics and because he is a multi-time winner at Homestead, he will definitely have an advantage over others.

Kyle Larson is the choice of many to win this weekend and, he also, is a multi-time winner at this track. Because he has not finished as well as Hamlin, Logano and a host of others, he will start seventeenth. For Larson, that may or may not be a setback but, it is a disadvantage to those ahead of him. We all know he is capable to drive up to the front but, the question remains, will he?

Okay, so there is lot that could be said looking ahead to Sunday afternoon, but there really is no reason to go into a bunch of possibilities. Considering the first two races and how they finished, will this one be a return to a semblance of normalcy or will it be different, kinda like the year has started out already?

From this fan’s view, I know which drivers I would rather see win and those I would prefer didn’t. What about you? Do you think it will be one of the young guns with a lot of dirt track experience looking to win their first race in Cup or do you think it will be one of the veterans with experience and proven performance at Homestead? Or, just maybe, it will be someone totally unexpected…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 27, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated