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

Cup Teams Take It To The Daytona Road Course Again

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The NASCAR Cup teams take it to the Daytona Road Course this weekend but, wait a minute. You already knew that. “So what,” some are saying, while others can’t wait for the green flag to drop in the second scheduled race at Daytona in the 2021 Season. I don’t know what you think about this second week in a row at Daytona but, considering some of the weather elsewhere in the country, it appears NASCAR made some really good scheduling decisions for this season. Well, at lest from this fan’s view they did.

Now, before I go too far into this weekend’s race, I want to take a few moments to talk about Michael McDowell and his Daytona 500 victory last weekend. All I can say to begin with is, it’s about time. I can think of no one more deserving than him to be the surprise winner for the Daytona 500. I mean, think about it. He hasn’t really ever been in the best equipment. He hasn’t really ever been with the strongest team and, for sure, he hasn’t always been in position to win the biggest race in NASCAR like he was this last weekend. That’s not to say he’s not a talented driver because he is. I’m just saying things just haven’t happened for him until this year’s 500.

I remember when we all thought his career might be over when he crashed in qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway those many years ago in April of 2008. In fact, we never thought we would see him climb out of his wrecked car and walk to the ambulance under his own power. I remember it like it was yesterday and I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when he had that terrible crash he walked away from. I remember it like the terrible crash Ricky Rudd had at Daytona in 1984 and the one that took the life of Dale Earnhardt twenty years ago. Those were all days to remember, some with great relief and gladness and another with great sadness.

I guess you can tell, I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen a lot of NASCAR races. I can’t say a “Big One” at a Super Speedway happening on the last lap is that surprising because they happen all the time. Michael McDowell coming away with the win was a big surprise this year and (yes, I know I’m repeating myself) I can think of no one more deserving than Michael. He has stuck it out, worked hard and, from many that know him and have or are racing with him, he is a great leader and role model for those he is around. I congratulate him on this first, and big win for him in his NASCAR Cup career.

So… what about the Daytona road course this weekend? Is it going to be the same old same old? Do you think there will be a shakeup in which driver will win?

Chase Elliott is the most obvious driver to possibly take the win on Sunday afternoon. After all, he has shown plenty of ability to move to the front even from the back of the field. He’s done it more than once, even more than once in a race. After the Clash, there just may be a question mark about winning “again” this weekend. As it stands right now, he is the most likely, but, will he? I guess that’s one question that won’t be answered until the checkered flag drops when it is all over on Sunday.

From this fan’s view, there are several that have made strong showings in the past, especially at this road course at Daytona and they could be taking the trophy with them when they leave the track. Since so many talk about momentum being a key factor in winning in NASCAR, I would first offer the name of Michael McDowell. He is a strong road course racer and could pull off his second NASCAR Cup win on Sunday. Now I’m not saying he is going to or that he is a favorite but, I am saying it is a possibility and it could happen. In many people’s eyes, he may be a long shot, but no one can really argue with the fact that he is a good road course racer.

Another that has shown strength at the Daytona road course is Ryan Blaney. He ran right down to the wire with Chase Elliott in the Clash and, if they hadn’t gotten together in the last turn, he may well have beaten Chased to the line. Of course, that didn’t happen, but it could have and that’s why I mention it here as another possibility. It’s not the first time he has run up front at this place.

If you want to talk about obvious possible winners, there are many to choose from, but this fan can’t ignore at least two of the Toyota drivers. Martin Truex and Kyle Bush seem to always be in the mix as long as they can stay out of trouble and not make any stupid mistakes. (Wow! Did I just say these two Cup Champs might do something stupid that could cost them a win? Yeah… I think I just did.) Both have been strong contenders on road courses and both have ample talent to win this one. I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see one of them taking the win.

These days, there are many drivers that could win, it’s just a question of whether they can weather the competition all the way to the end and take the checkered flag and trophy. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time as Kyle Bush proved in the Busch Clash when Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott basically handed him the win at the very last moments of the Clash.

So, will someone completely unexpected win this one or will it be one of the expected ones? With the way things have been going, that, my friends, is a very good question…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 20, 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

NASCAR 2020 The Season That Almost Wasn’t

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Will Be The Champ When Phoenix Is Done

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round Of Eight Race Two At Texas

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 24, 2020 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

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

All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Roval Question – Rain or No Rain

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The big question from the Cup Series this weekend is, will it rain or will it not? Inclement weather couldn’t come at a more dramatic time in the playoffs since this is the cutoff race for the round of twelve. There are at least four of the twelve drivers that need to win if they want to stay in the playoffs and adding rain to the mix should make for a very interesting afternoon of racing at the Roval in Charlotte.

I realize the implications of rain make the situation a bit more complicated than it normally would but, racing in the rain is a decision NASCAR made several years ago. If memory serves me correctly, they haven’t had to actually do that yet and most of the drivers are concerned about their lack of experience at racing in the rain. In fact, many have expressed that they haven’t raced in the rain ever. That means they will have a large learning curve if the rains do come down, at least until NASCAR thinks it is too dangerous to continue racing because of safety concerns…

As a former small-time stock car racer, I realize there aren’t too many of you that care to hear about my experiences of rain at the track but, I will share a few things anyway. Most of the time the rain was intermittent or light and even when the track was too wet to continue, often we could dry it by all of the classes getting out and driving around the track many times to dry it out. Of course, we were small-time and didn’t have the same means as NASCAR to dry it out but it could be done and the racing continue.

If I can take another moment to express my experience, those were some of the most fun times I can remember from my old racing days. It was unbelievable how slippery the track got with just a little bit of drizzle coming down. Sometimes it would rain really hard for about fifteen or twenty minutes or so and they would clear the track, depending on the time, and wait it out. Those were my only times of driving on a track that drove like the old dirt tracks I grew up around even though it was asphalt. We weren’t actually going fast at those times but we could put our cars in a power slide almost all the way around the track just like driving on dirt. I’m telling you; it may not have been racing for a win but it sure was fun. It seemed it also made us better at handling our cars if some fluid was dumped on the track and that was a plus.

Now, that had nothing to do with what’s going on at the Roval this weekend but I threw it in for free just because I remember those times very vividly and I had a lot of fun along with many of the other people I raced with…

Because of the possible inclement weather at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the door could be opened for someone other than the favorites to show up in Victory Lane at the end of the day. It could also open the door for one of those below the cut line and needing to win to stay in, to make it into the next round. That doesn’t mean the favorites won’t be there fighting it out for the victory, it just opens the door to a whole lot more possibilities.

These days, there are quite a few good road course racers in NASCAR. The days of bringing in road course ringers are long over and, though there may be some that don’t like road courses, most of the drivers do at least make a good showing. I’m not saying all of them do but most of them seem to be able to handle the road courses competitively, whether or not they are running for the win.

The Roval is the breaking point for some and can be one of the most important races of the season for those in the top twelve going in to this one. IF one of those in the ninth to twelfth positions pulls off a win, it can totally wreck someone else’s chances of moving on. If may even be one of the drivers close to the cut line that ends up being knocked out of the playoffs. That’s what will likely make this race so dramatic. The possibilities are, or at least could be, an overwhelming disappointment for someone and a complete turnaround for another.

As a fan, I think it is pretty obvious that emotions will be high and tempers may not flare up immediately but, probably will at sometime during the race. The drama will only increase as the laps wind down and won’t let up until this one is done.

So… will it rain or won’t it? I don’t know but, I reckon we’re fixing to find out when the green flag drops and what ever is going to happen, happens…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 10, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Pressure Ramps Up At Talladega

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well… it’s that time again. You do know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You know that thing they used to call restrictor plate racing. Yeah, that’s right; at one of the two remaining Super Speedways on the NASCAR circuit. This weekend is another one of those races at Talladega.

Personally, I’ve always liked the races at the Super Speedways. Well… except for the times when they did that tandem thing. You know, that time when they would go two by two, hooking up front and rear bumpers because it was a faster way to get around the track. That was when I thought NASCAR racing became completely boring. Actually, I was happy when they made it where they couldn’t do that anymore. That’s not to say they don’t hook up together in a similar way; It’s just that they don’t do it lap after lap until their radiators need to breathe a little.

As we already know, the race this weekend is the second in the round of twelve and it is important for those wanting to move on to the round of eight to have good finishes. Well, that is all but Kurt Bush. He’s already guaranteed a spot in the next round because of his win last weekend. In all actuality, this is the first of two tough races in a row in the round of twelve. Not necessarily because the tracks are so difficult, although they are a challenge, but because they are hard places to advance in the standings if things don’t go right.

I’m still not convinced that Kyle Bush will actually win a race this season. Maybe I should say, when it actually counts this season, especially for the playoffs. As the points stand right now, he is just outside the cutoff line for the round of eight. It is possible he could fulfill his own prophecy of being eliminated in this round. Sure, I know it was only in a post-race interview and he was relatively frustrated at the time but, from my view, it is possible he might not move on to the next round. He hasn’t had the best luck this season and it is possible he could be eliminated from the playoffs before it turns around. This is another one of those times when it looks like we’ll just have to wait and see.

Actually, a close look at the standings and the two races coming up, shows those in third to twelfth aren’t all that set coming into Talladega and then the Roval. It is hard to predict what the standings could look like after Talladega let alone the Roval. There are only so many points separating third from twelfth and a win by one of those in ninth to twelfth would completely negate the small advantage. Of course, some are more safe than others in that group but having problems over the next two weekends could spell trouble for someone that looks to be quite safe, points-wise, at the present time.

The two remaining Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the playoffs, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott just don’t look all that safe going into Talladega. All it will take is someone below them winning this weekend or them having a bad finish and losing spots, and then moving them below the cutoff and making next week at the Roval all the more pressure packed. That’s one of the big unknowns about running at Talladega. There is always the chance of getting caught up in someone else’s problem or one of the possible multiple “Big Ones.”

Kevin Harvick is still the one most likely to move on to the final four unless his season turns completely around and everything goes down the tubes over the next several weeks. The chances of that happening isn’t very likely so I’ll just leave it at, he is one of my picks to advance all the way to the Final Four for the Championship for now.

When it comes to Denny Hamlin, well, I’m still not convinced his luck has turned around. Yes, I know he finished third last weekend and is starting on the pole this weekend (barring failure at inspection time.) It is a good spot for him to start at Talladega but it also doesn’t mean he will finish well and, judging from previous races this season and previous years in the run for the Championship, it could be that he doesn’t even make it to the Final Four when all is said and done. His advantage right now is the points he has and that is his only saving grace for now. Otherwise, he would likely be fighting it out with the rest for just moving on to the round of eight.

Something about racing at Talladega, especially in the playoffs. The pressure really ramps up, depending on where a driver is in the standings and you really won’t know who the winner is until one of them actually crosses the finish line ahead of all the rest…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 3, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated