The Playoffs Begin At Vegas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well, it’s that time again. Yeah, it’s time for the 2019 MENCS playoffs to begin and what better place is there than Vegas. I mean, it’s time for the sixteen drivers and teams competing for the Championship to start showing all their cards. No more playing around and experimenting; the time has come to go all in. The next nine races are all that matter as they try to make it into the final four and compete for the coveted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November, just ten short weeks away.

A lot of the talking heads have already chosen which four will be in the final four, but I’m not so sure I agree with them. Well… at least not yet. One of the interesting things about this playoff format is that there is no guarantee the ones on top, now, will make it to the final four. Just as some of the ones at the bottom of the standings had weeks of struggle before they sealed their spots in the playoffs, the same can happen to those that are considered to be the “most likely” ones to advance all the way to the final four.

I do admit the favorites, the ones on top right now, have managed a lot of wins amongst themselves and they do appear to have the advantage going into this first race. All of that can change immediately after this one is in the books. After all, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer are great examples of what can happen after three races. They both got in by the skin of their teeth and, had they not performed as they did, neither of them would be in the mix at all.

Ryan Newman was constantly pressing to finish as high as possible in the last several races just to get into the top sixteen. His was no easy task and he fought and clawed his way in. Clint Bowyer was solidly in the top sixteen and ran into a string of bad finishes that almost negated his chances to even be in the playoffs. Both of these drivers didn’t lock themselves in until the race last weekend at Indy and both of them had to sweat it out to the very end.

Unfortunately, the drivers presently in the top spots, that locked themselves in early on in the season, could face the same struggles as Bowyer did. They have acquired a lot of playoff points and look to be obvious choices because they have multiple wins and show up almost every race weekend with fast race cars.

Although I do agree with the old saying the cream always rises to the top, I’m not willing to admit right off that their performance will continue to pull them through. In racing, anything can happen and bad racing luck can happen even to the best of them.

The names this fan keeps hearing mentioned as being the final four are, Kyle Bush, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. I realize that’s five but Kevin Harvick seems to be peaking at the right time and it’s a toss-up, according to many, which one is the more likely choice between the two, namely Harvick and Truex Jr. After all, these are the ones most often mentioned as the ones most likely to be in the final four even before the first race in the playoffs has seen its first lap.

If you don’t think what I am saying here can happen to any of them, just take a look at Jimmie Johnson. Earlier in the summer, it looked as though he was going to be in the playoffs by points, if not by having a win. But then the bottom fell out and he dropped a bunch of spots just like Clint Bowyer. Just as Jimmie Johnson fell out of contention completely over several weeks, the exact same thing can happen to any of the top sixteen in this first round, and in particular to the ones “expected” to move on. I realize this may sound pretty far fetched but don’t think bad luck can’t be a deciding factor in which of the drivers and teams move on. Engine failures, tire failures and any number of things can, and often do, go wrong. It doesn’t even have to be the fault of the ones taken out by someone else’s problem but, it can happen and there isn’t anything they can do about it if it does.

Now look… I’m not saying what happened to Jimmie Johnson is likely to happen to one of the top seeded drivers. What I am saying is, although a lot of the #48’s problems were brought on by their own miscues, there were also things they had absolutely no control over that cost them good point days. Those days cost them dearly and that is exactly the type stuff that could happen to the others…

Just before I close, I have to give my opinion of all the hype surrounding Jimmie Johnson’s missing the playoffs for the first time in his career. It’s my opinion many of the media guys (and gals) are making too big a deal out of it. NASCAR isn’t going to fold just because seven-time Cup Champ, Jimmie Johnson didn’t make the playoffs. It also doesn’t mean he is through and should retire. It just means he had a bad season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won one or two of these last ten races and, though it won’t get him a Championship this year, it just might mean everyone should look out for him next season. I mean, now there’s no pressure and every bit of progress they make now can carry over to next year. Hey, just sayin’…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 14, 2019 – 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 In When This One Ends from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s a lot to be said about the 25th running of the Brickyard 400 taking place Sunday at Indy. It is one race any NASCAR driver would like to win and it is one of four Crown Jewels on the NASCAR circuit. The biggest question many of us have is, “Who’ll be in when this one ends.”

Yeah, that’s right. This is it. This is the last race and end of what is called in these recent years, the regular season. Kyle Bush has already clinched the 2019 regular season championship and, when this one is done, the playoffs begin.

But wait. You already knew that didn’t you. What is unknown by both you and me at the time of this writing is which sixteen drivers and teams will be in the playoffs competing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November. That’s another thing to be said about this 25th running of the Brickyard 400. It is where the bubble will burst for at least two of the four now sitting at a precarious place in the standings. Of course you know the main four I’m talking about. Barring a completely unexpected happening, the four I’m talking about are Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.

At least three of these four drivers have been battling bad luck and bad decisions over several weekends of the racing in this last part of the season to bounce in and out of the top sixteen spots. After the race Sunday, there will be no more bouncing. The field will be set and, barring the unforeseen, two will be locked out of making a bid for the 2019 MENCS Championship.

I know the next things I’m going to say you’ve probably heard a hundred times over the last week or weeks. The four drivers on or around the bubble have to perform well in the Brickyard 400. Clint Bowyer is only eight points to the good and, from this fan’s view and the way his luck has been running, he can’t afford to have a bad day. In reality, he just needs to finish ahead of the other three and he should be in the top sixteen and on his way to the playoffs. That is by no means a given since he has been high enough in the points to not have to worry and now must perform well to definitely make it in.

Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez are tied at the sixteenth spot with Suarez in the sixteenth spot because of the tiebreaker. This will be most dramatic part of the entire race in this fan’s opinion, since these two have a little history, in particular from the race last weekend at Darlington. There is no doubt Ryan Newman knows what it will take if the opportunity is there for him and, from past years experiences, we know he will do what it takes. He has been the most consistent finisher over the past weekends’ races compared to Johnson and Bowyer. That won’t mean a whole lot if he isn’t in position to take advantage of those in front of him in the standings. From this fan’s view, I expect him to be even harder to pass than usual and that won’t bode well for the other three.

There is no doubt, Daniel Suarez is a hard charger and, as we witnessed last weekend, he is not opposed to pressing the envelope on those he is competing against. He has speed and he has the will to press that envelope when necessary. I don’t expect this weekend to be any different than what he has shown much of the season and I don’t think he will let up even around Ryan Newman. It is the same for him as it is for the four I’m mostly talking about here. They all need stage points and they all need to finish ahead of those they are running against to make it into the top sixteen.

There is none of these four that has had a more up and down times at this critical time in the season than Jimmie Johnson. He was in, he was out, he was in and he’s out again. Even though we have seen the Hendrick teams improve throughout the season and two of the Hendrick drivers are in the playoffs by wins. Of course that would be Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman and William Byron is in by points. The only one not in is Jimmie Johnson and there is none that would like to be in from HMS more than him.

From this fan’s view, his best chance to make sure he is in the playoffs is to win. There is no other way for him to guarantee himself being in other than doing that. It’s the only way he can remove any doubt no matter what happens to the rest. So… do you think there is any pressure on him and his team for the Brickyard 400? Yeah, that’s what I thought you would say and I agree with you…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 7, 2019 – 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

Two To Go For A Chance To Make The Show from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The race at Darlington this weekend is about more than “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” It’s about four drivers that have been hovering around the cut line and their time is about to run out. Which one will it be? That is the question most seem to be asking. Some have already ruled out Jimmie Johnson continuing his streak of making the playoffs and, admittedly, he does have challenges ahead in the next two races if he is going to make it.

There are a lot of things about making the playoffs that are up in the air coming into the races this weekend and next. The four most likely to be contending are the ones everyone seems to be watching. Of course, just in case you are totally out of touch with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, those four drivers presently contending are Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. Their situation isn’t just with each other but there are others that can “shake up everything.”

Let’s not forget, this is “The Lady In Black”, the track “Too Tough To Tame” and just about anything can happen this weekend to shake up the standings, especially around the bubble area. As I mentioned, many have already written Jimmie Johnson’s epitaph as far as the playoff picture is concerned. This fan is not one of those but I do admit his chances are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Several weeks ago, Jimmie’s chances looked very good. He was in the top sixteen and looking to make the playoffs and keep his record intact. Then, it appears the bottom dropped out and things began to happen that caused his drop out of the top sixteen. Much of it was not his fault but, at this time in the season, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. It only matters where you sit in the standings and he is not in a good spot. From this fan’s view, his best chance is to win at Darlington or Indianapolis. Otherwise, he is at the mercy of the way his luck has been running reversing or the luck of the ones he is trying to outpoint taking a dip to get into the top sixteen.

The surprise of the last several weeks, at least from this fan’s view, is Daniel Suarez. He has moved from being out to occupying the sixteenth spot in the standings. He has been performing well but, as can be the case with racing luck, his luck can turn into the same as Jimmie Johnson’s has been and he could drop like a rock completely out of the top sixteen. After all, he is only two points in as it stands right now. It won’t take much to knock him out and it definitely won’t take much for him to advance further up in the standings.

Clint Bowyer has been having pretty much the same luck as Jimmie Johnson over the last several races. He has gone from being in to being just out by two points. He is in a battle with his SHR teammate, Daniel Suarez, to make the cut and just hasn’t been able to catch a break even when others have struggled in past races. Something has always happened to keep him from gaining needed points to get into the top sixteen.

Of the four most involved in the battle for making the top sixteen, Ryan Newman is the one that has been the most consistent finisher. That’s not to say he has always had the most speed but he is consistently finishing ahead of the other three. Presently, he is only twelve points to the good and he needs to continue finishing ahead of the others or he, too, will drop out of the top sixteen and either need a win or take advantage of the possible misfortunes of the others.

No matter which way you look at it, these next two races should prove to be extremely interesting and stressful for these four drivers and teams. With such a tight points battle, this fan sees the drama and emotion to be highly elevated. Personally, I expect there could be some outbursts amongst these four and possibly others as the race progresses on Sunday evening. With this much at stake, I don’t see how it can be avoided, particularly if one of the four, or someone else in the lineup causes them to lose points or puts them out of contention completely for the playoffs.

With all of that being said, here is another scenario. Disaster can strike any one of those in the top sixteen and not locked in either by wins or points over these last two races of the regular season. That could cause any one or all of the four to move up in the standings as long as they have a good day points-wise.

But, what if there is an unexpected winner from the top twenty both at Darlington this weekend and/or next weekend at Indianapolis? That, my friends, is why the next two races are about more than just the four hovering around the bubble before the races start. If one of them wins, they’re in. If not, well…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 31, 2019 – 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 MENCS Teams Will Be Flatout At MIS from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Yeah, you can go ahead and say it. I can take it (and I agree with you at least somewhat.) I know the title of this one is a little cliché and probably sounds a little cheesy and awkward. The meaning won’t change though, no matter how it’s worded.

With the reduced 550 hp package the Cup teams will be running this weekend, the racing will be, “Flatout” and the starts and re-starts will be fast and furious as the drivers take things to the limit to gain advantage over as many as they can. At Michigan International Speedway this weekend, I guess you could say it is going to be all about passing before you get passed and gaining as many spots as you can before the aero starts to affect you. In short, pass as many as you can and try to get into clean air.

So, what’s your opinion? Do you think the drivers around the bubble area are feeling the heat? Well, here’s my opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much emotion and tempers flaring as I have witnessed this season. Think about it. Don’t you think it has become extremely intense over the last several weeks?

Take Jimmie Johnson, for example. A lot of the talk this week has been about how upset he was with the move by Ryan Blaney at The Glen that cost Jimmie a good finish. We’ve heard it over and over again since the incident, of how many have NEVER seen him as upset as he was. Apparently, it may not be over yet and that could spell trouble for both of them if things carry over onto the track. It may not happen at MIS but, it may happen at a shorter track.

From this fan’s view, it is understandable. Jimmie had put himself in a position to take advantage of Clint Bowyer’s struggles and move into a more solid position in the playoff standings. Ryan’s bump definitely put an end to that possibility. The other part is that the seven time Cup Champ has been struggling over most of the last year and a half and this fan thinks it is definitely beginning to weigh on him. It is good to see some of the fire and intensity show up. It tells me he isn’t done with going for championship number eight. It may not happen this year, but…

The Johnson/Blaney incident wasn’t the only one at The Glen. There was another that brought loud cheers from the stands. Yeah… I know you know which one I’m talking about. That’s right. It was the one between Kyle Bush and Darryl “Bubba” Wallace. I don’t think it’s just this fan’s view but, there is a reason why the response was so great. (Well, this is my opinion anyway.) It’s because, more often than not, Kyle is a pain in the… well… how do I make this G rated? Awww, let’s just say he can be a pain in the backside.

Look, with my saying that, I am not taking anything away from his talent as driver or as a person. He is one of the most talented drivers ever in NASCAR and he will continue to be. It’s just that, from this fan’s view, when something happens, it is either someone else’s fault, (like with William Byron on the second lap at The Glen), or if it turns out in his favor, he thinks it’s just racing and “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” When it goes against him, well, that’s a completely different thing. He is in a bad mood and doesn’t want to talk about it or be interviewed. Hey, it’s not that I don’t understand the intensity and emotions, I’m just offering my opinion and saying that’s why the crowd in the stands reacted the way they did with the incident between him and Wallace. (I have to be honest here… I reacted the same as the crowd.)

From this fan’s view, one thing the rule packages, making the playoffs and the manufacturer struggles to be more competitive has done is add to the over-all intensity in the Cup Series. I don’t think it is any one thing in particular of the things I just mentioned but making the top sixteen for the playoffs has certainly moved to the top of the list in making things a bit more “interesting” along with all of them trying to earn playoff points.

So even though the drivers involved in the disagreements have had their discussions and, “worked it all out” between them, this fan isn’t so sure everything is over. I think there is too much riding on the bubble group, the playoff points and the regular season battle between Joey Logano and Kyle Bush.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this race will be as exciting and dramatic as the last few have been, but I do think it will be a better race than I thought it might be after the first practice started. This may be a race that is more like the ones at Daytona or Talladega than a normal Michigan race. The Chevys may actually have a chance of winning this one over the Fords and the Toyotas. I’m not really expecting that. I do think they’ll make it interesting though. It’s all going to depend strategy, fuel mileage and clean air…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 10, 2019 – 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 Win At The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take to the track on Sunday afternoon, there are several somebodies that really need a win in 2019 at The Glen. The question is, who will win at the Glen and will it be someone that needs the win to lock themselves into the playoffs or will it be someone else?

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. The playoff picture is really coming into focus and there is a real traffic jam at, or near, the cutoff spot of sixteenth. There are several that really need a good finish at The Glen and not all of those are pressing the envelope to get in, but they are pressing to stay in the top sixteen. It goes without saying the emotions are elevated and the drama is more evident than ever.

There are four or five that hog the conversation every week and, well, at least from this fan’s view, it does make every race very interesting. Now, I’m not one to mince words – well, at least not on a regular basis – but not all of the drama and excitement has been for the win at the end of the races the last couple of weeks. Some of it has taken place a little further back in the pack and some of it has centered around problems even before the race begins. Yeah, several have had major difficulties in practice and qualifying and it has affected where they start and probably a little bit of where they finish. Others? Well let’s just say they’ve had some problems in passing inspections. I won’t mention any names because we all know which ones they are but, suffice it to say, there are more than a couple.

The big news this week has been about the crew chief change over at Hendrick Motor-Sports for the #48 Chevy of Jimmie Johnson. It goes without saying he has been struggling most of the season and he is now just outside the top sixteen for the playoffs. He is twelve points behind Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman and the last couple of weeks have been a struggle for him. Yeah, I know he won the second stage last weekend but that was his first stage win and when all was said and done, he finished fifteenth at the end. Yes, he did gain five points on the two ahead of him with that finish but he needs more. In fact, it would really help if he took his first win at The Glen in his career this weekend with his new crew chief. Looking at his recent stats for The Glen, it isn’t likely he’ll win simply because he hasn’t done all that well in the last several years. Still, he is a seven-time Cup Champion and we all know he knows not only how to drive but how to win.

The Glen is a tough road course and there are places around the track that anyone could get themselves into trouble. It has happened to some of the best and I don’t see any reason why it may not be a factor this weekend. Last year’s winner, Chase Elliott is looking to repeat but he has really struggled over the last several weeks, especially the last two. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t repeat. I’m just saying they’re going to have to step it up a notch over what the last couple of weeks have been like.

Okay, let’s take a quick look at a couple of others that need a win at The Glen. The first
from my view is Kyle Larson. Sure, I know he’s about thirty-five points ahead of Bowyer and Newman, but with the way his luck has been running, he needs a win to solidify his playoff spot and then maybe he and his team can focus on just how they will approach the playoffs. Besides, thirty-five points isn’t much with the amount of races left before the playoffs.

Another is Daniel Suarez. He is just twenty-one points behind Jimmie Johnson in eighteenth spot. A win would immediately move him into the playoffs along with his other SHR teammates. Of the four SHR teams, he is the only one outside of the top sixteen. Go ahead. Think back over the last several weeks of racing and tell me, how aggressive has he been. Mm-Hm, that’s exactly what I was thinking. His aggressiveness on the track (and sometimes off) has been as elevated as his emotions. He can’t really afford to have another bad finish or two. Well, that is, if he doesn’t win a race between now and the playoffs.

The problem with things being so tight around the bubble area of the standings is that it only takes a DNF from any one or more of the five I’ve mentioned and everything about the playoffs can change for those close to the cut. The same goes for a win from any one or more of the five in the weeks before the playoffs. If anyone thinks that stress, aggression and emotional levels aren’t at a heightened level just doesn’t get it. All of the drivers in the series want to win and they want to win this weekend at The Glen, especially those wanting to make it into the playoffs. The problem is, only one of them can.

So… who will win at The Glen this weekend? I’m not really sure but, I know it could get rough out there and, as far as this fan is concerned, this one should be intense in every way. Whether you talk about strategy, driver aggression or pit crew performance, this could be one of the best we’ve seen at The Glen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 3, 2019 – 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

Second 2019 Trip To The Tricky Triangle At Pocono from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Hey, it’s the second trip to the Tricky Triangle for the MENCS teams in 2019 but does anyone really think it’s going to be like the last trip several weeks ago. Not if you’ve been listening to the crew chiefs and drivers as they anticipate taking it to the “tricky, sticky triangle” for the second time this summer.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the talk over the last week of the changes for this weekend’s race and one of the hot topics is all about the “sticky stuff” (PJ1) they’ll be putting down on the track. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten mixed signals from listening to the talk about the decision to have it on the track for the first time. Some say they think it is going to help and make it easier to pass and others say it is only going to make things a little more complicated.

One of the concerns is that turn two will be a place where there might be more wrecks than normal. They say the “sticky stuff” could make for three or four wide racing in that area of the track. If that is the case, since it has been a problem area in the past, it could prove to be interesting, especially if and, more likely, when the “sticky” begins to go away.

You know, I find it interesting how the drivers (and crew chiefs, I guess) are talking about how they need to be more aggressive with the 550 and 750 horsepower packages. Mostly they talk about the 550hp package and how hard it is to pass where it is used. It seems like everyone these days is using the bump and run to make their passes and if the other guy goes into the wall, well, that’s just the way it goes. When it happens to them, well, let’s just say they think a little differently. They’ve also brought back the old “rubbin’ is racing” adage because so many are using the rubbin’ to gain advantage and finish making the pass instead of getting stalled out as they try.

I will admit, most of them lean on the other guy just enough to get past him but the times of problems being caused by the rubbing are increasing and the emotions are beginning to surface with paybacks and torn up racecars. I mean, we all hear the drivers say they’re going to race the others like they race them. If that means things get a little rough and the paybacks happen more frequently, eventually NASCAR will step in like the have in the past. With more torn-up racecars that’s where it makes it even more expensive for the owners and that may not be a good thing either.

Hey, I know there is a big difference between rubbing and wrecking somebody and I’m okay with the rubbing. Where it begins to show a possible problem is with the higher emotions in play with trying to make the top sixteen for the playoffs. I know you’ve noticed emotions are running pretty high right now and I don’t see that changing at all until the top sixteen are decided, do you?

Speaking of the top sixteen being decided, there are those that can’t afford to have another bad week because the bubble area is getting a little crowded. First It was Clint Bowyer struggling and falling below the cut and now it’s Jimmie Johnson. At the moment, Bowyer holds a seventeen-point advantage over Johnson and Suarez. Ryan Newman is only four points ahead of Bowyer. And then there is Erik Jones. He is in fourteenth at the moment but another bad finish for him could spell disaster for him again also. To say things are heating up at the cut line is a major understatement from this fan’s view. It is exciting and dramatic and unfortunately, at lest from this fan’s view, things could get a little rougher than they already have.

The way things are right now, it kind of reminds me of a story of something that happened back when I was racing at our local track. In the late model class, one of the drivers put another out to win the race. They had been going at it for many laps and the guy that got put out wasn’t happy about being put out so he approached the other driver a wanted to know why he put him out. In one of the most memorable statements I ever remember hearing about, the guy put it to him this way, (I’ll edit it here to keep it G rated.) He said, “Look, I tried you high and I tried you low and then, cotton-picker, it was time for you to go!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 27, 2019 – 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

Looking For Magic To Happen At The Magic Mile from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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When the MENCS teams take to the New Hampshire track Sunday afternoon there will be several drivers and teams looking for magic to happen at the Magic Mile. When the race is done, the hope is that one of the non-winners close to the cutoff spot of sixteenth will win and be in the playoffs. From this fan’s view, time is running out for some of them and they need to win, get in and begin to think about how they can advance to the final four.

So, which of the drivers are hoping to win this one so they don’t really have to worry about making the playoffs? Well… the quick answer is, all of them. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Of course they all want to win. That’s what racing is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes of course it is. Winning is what every driver, in every race wants to do. The problem is not all of them have a car – or even the talent – to do so. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying these guys don’t have talent. They wouldn’t be where they are unless they do. Also, I’m NOT saying they aren’t winners or capable of winning. I’m simply saying that, no matter how much NASCAR tries to make the competition closer and closer, some teams find speed and handling faster than others and they take that advantage to the limit over the others. Whether it is because of horsepower, aerodynamics or because the present set of rules better fit a driver’s ability, some will always have an advantage over the others and it only follows that they are more likely to win at any track they compete at.

You and I have seen it week in and week out. Some show a lot of speed in practice, others in qualifying and others for part of a race or in a stage. When it comes down to the final flag, it is often the favorites that are pressing to win and all of the others are just “also rans.” Now that I’ve said all of that, which of the non-winners so far this season and that are still in contention actually needs to win to avoid disaster for this 2019 MENCS season?

Well, there are several and some of them have not had a good summer, while others have just managed to stay in the hunt although staying near the cut line for many weeks. Although there is a big battle going on for staying in the top sixteen, (or at least close to it), there are a few that just cannot afford to have another bad race and winning at the Magic Mile this weekend could at least clinch their place in the first part of the playoffs. Two that quickly come to this fan’s mind would be Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer. They are tied in points for the present. Of the two, Bowyer has had the worst performance over the summer months so far, and Johnson has had good finishes and bad finishes which has kept him just in or just out of the top sixteen. Either one of them could win on Sunday and either one of them would welcome the lack of stress over the next several weeks.

Eric Jones of JGR is another that could really benefit from a win along with Daniel Suarez of SHR. Both of them have shown speed but have not been able to take it all the way and end up in Victory Lane. Along with these two would be Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson. Newman is just outside of the cut line and can’t really afford to have any bad finishes while Larson is in thirteenth and needs to have some consistent finishes at or near the front to stay in the top sixteen. A win would be “Magical” for any one of these.

The question I’ve heard asked most often this week has been whether or not the Chevys can make it four wins in a row. In this fan’s opinion, I’m just not sure. Yes, they have shown speed and Chase Elliott was even on top of the speed charts for the first practice. Other than that, the Chevys didn’t really look all that impressive but, I have to admit, they have fooled me with their race performances over their practice and qualifying performance recently and that could mean a trip to Victory Lane again this weekend.

The Magic Mile is as very challenging track and, I have to admit, I do not fully understand the application of the “sticky stuff” in the turns all that much. I mean, if you’re going to apply it, apply it in a way that doesn’t handicap the drivers on entrance and exit of the turns. We only have to look at the number of backup cars that have been brought out so far. When the racing actually begins Sunday afternoon, there could be a lot more carnage than we’ve seen so far.

So… can we hope for another finish like we witnessed last weekend between the Bush brothers? Well… maybe but, this could be another race that someone wins because of the possible carnage or other reasons that makes absolutely no difference in the top sixteen standings and makes every remaining race even more important, dramatic and intense for those on or near the bubble…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 20, 2019 – 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

Kentucky Speedway Is Next For MENCS from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Monsters Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take on the very challenging Kentucky Speedway tonight and, from this fan’s view, it looks like the Chevys just might be chasing mostly the Fords if they want to take home a win. That’s not to say there won’t be a few Toyotas in the mix, but the Fords seem to have the upper hand when it comes to consistent speed over both. Daniel Suarez took the pole with a very impressive lap time and the rest of the field might be chasing him all night… or, not.

Okay, I know that was a pretty safe statement and here is why I said it the way I did. Kentucky Speedway is one of the more challenging tracks on the Cup circuit for several reasons, the first being the difference between turns one and two and three and four. Of the two ends of the track, turns three and four are the biggest challenge because of the difference in the banking. With the package NASCAR has mandated for the cars, the drivers seem to approach one and two with more confidence than they do turns three and four. One and two have more banking and three and four have less. The difference is enough to make navigating the two ends of the track a very definite challenge.

Another item that needs to be considered is that this race is an impound race so we don’t really know which of them will have the most consistent speed throughout a stage. Since it is an impound race, they have to start the race with the setup they qualified with. That could mean there may be a discrepancy in how the competition will actually pan out over the course of the race. Daniel may have been setup to qualify better than to start the race with a setup that would keep him out front.

That is one question that will quickly be answered as the first stage progresses. I guess it would be interesting if Suarez was the first to win from the Stewart/Haas camp. The Stewart/Haas Fords have had the speed they just haven’t been able to bring it home at the final flag, a point that has to be a major disappointment to all at SHR.

Even though the Hendrick Chevys have been showing a great deal of improvement over the last several races, this fan isn’t sure Kentucky is a place where they will continue to show they are ready to be contenders for the Championship this year. Of course the fact of this being an impound race could show they were working more on race setup than qualifying and they may surprise everyone with how they finish. From this fan’s view, it isn’t something I expect but it would be a pleasant surprise considering how they qualified and looked in the practice sessions. That’s one of the interesting things about impound races. You never know how it will go until they actually start the race. Personally, I don’t really know how the Chevys will do but I do hope they are able to make it interesting.

Just for a moment I want to take a quick look back to last week at Daytona. We all remember how “Bad” Brad sent a message to the rest of the drivers about how he wasn’t going to be lifting for those that might try to block him. In last week’s article, I also said he may have unintentionally opened a door the rest of the field to think the same way. I really expected most, if not all, of the drivers would take the same attitude but have to admit, I was surprised at how aggressive many of them were.

Yeah, I know they were also trying to beat the possibility of inclement weather and a rain shortened race but it was definitely a different attitude in the way many of them drove. In the end, two things happened. First, and interestingly enough, Kevin Harvick drove Brad Keselowski the same way he drove him earlier in the race and Brad ended up in the wall and out of the race from the bump and run incident. Second, Clint Bowyer didn’t lift for Austin Dillon and it caused the “Big One” that took out much of the field and allowed a totally unexpected driver and team to win the last July race to be held at Daytona. I guess in a way, you could say it was fitting.

Anyway, taking a quick look at tonight’s race at Kentucky Speedway, I don’t think even the drivers know exactly what to expect when all of them take to the track. During the practice sessions there wasn’t a whole lot of cars running together to see how they might react with each other in traffic. It appeared to be more about how to handle the two different ends of the track and how reliant they should be on the “sticky stuff” in the upper grooves in the turns. I don’t know about you but that could mean one of two things for tonight’s race. Either it is going to be runaway for one or maybe several or, it could be a wreck-fest. I reckon we’ll just have watch to find out…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 13, 2019 – 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

MENCS Teams At Chicagoland from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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So… what’s the BIG STORY for the race at Chicagoland this weekend? Well… from my view, (and in my opinion), there isn’t one. Well, actually, there are what some call “Big Stories” but, from this fan’s view they aren’t big – just more of the same. There is the same talk about the BIG winners so far this season and how they are the “favorites” to be out front when the final black and white checkered flag drops on Sunday afternoon. There is also the hope that there will be a finish like there was between Kyle Larson and Kyle Bush last season OR possibly something similar between some other drivers.

From this fan’s view, this has been a very different kind of year for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I’m not so sure my view is of much interest to many but it is still my view and, for some reason, I’m not sure why, this season has been a little boring to me. I’m not sure if it has to do with the lack of performance from the Chevys or the lack of performance from some of the older and more accomplished drivers. Whatever it is, it definitely has made a difference in how or what I think as each week of racing approaches and arrives.

I mean, think about it. When has some of the best racing taken place over the first half of the season? Has it been when the starts and restarts take place or has it been when they are just clicking off the laps to get to the end of a stage or take the final flag? Has it been as hard for Ford fans as it has been for the Chevy fans to watch the Toyotas – and I hesitate to use the word – dominate the way they have this season?

Let me ask you some questions. Do you have a favorite driver other than those that have won most of the races this season? Do you have a favorite organization other than JGR or Penske? Have you lost interest in a race when your favorite has either dropped out due to accident or mistake that has put them completely out of contention? Do you find yourself hoping for cautions so you can at least see some aggressive racing for a few laps until things settle back down to the inevitable?

Yeah… that’s what I thought. Me, too.

Look, I still start out every race weekend with the hope that my favorite driver, drivers or teams will make a good showing. I have the hope they have found something that will allow them to at least run with the usual leaders or even win but, I have to admit, that hasn’t happened yet this season – at least with any consistency.

Contrary to what some may think, I am not just a one driver, one organization fan. I have several favorites, driving something other than a Chevy, on different teams and there are those I would really like to see win or, at least, do well on any given weekend. I have also found there are some drivers I didn’t used to like or want to win at all that I now find myself pulling for. I have watched how they have matured and have come to respect them as drivers whether they drive a Ford, Toyota or a Chevy. Of course, I am still am a big Chevy fan, still a Hendrick Motorsports fan and would like to see Jimmie Johnson win his eighth Cup Championship. I would also like to See Kevin Harvick get back into the same form he was in last season.

Now, I have to admit that waiting for Jimmie Johnson to win a race over the last two seasons has been a little like waiting for John Force in the NHRA to get his 150th win this year. (Yeah, I’m a big Drag Racing fan, too. Been a John Force fan for longer than I care to admit.) It has also been difficult to watch the Chevys be underdogs over most of the last two years and hardly ever be considered a threat to win. (Yes, I still have a heavy Chevy bias, never raced anything but Chevys when I was racing and my work van is a Chevy.)

So, you might be asking, “Are you losing interest in NASCAR racing?”

To that I can state an emphatic, “No!” I just decided to start off this part of the season in a little different way. After all, NBC is taking over the MENCS coverage from Fox Sports through the end of the season and they will have a different take on the way things look and are in NASCAR and, though it might be different, it will still be great coverage.

This weekend they will be running what is referred to as the 550 rules package and that will be one of the biggest differences the teams will face this weekend. I am anxious to see how the Chevys faire and can only hope they make a better showing than they have recently. I am also interested in seeing how Kevin Harvick and the other Stewart/Haas teams run. They haven’t been in victory lane yet this season at all.

Okay, just for fun, let’s say that the two Kyles face off the same way they did at the end of the race last season at Chicagoland. Does anyone really believe that Kyle Bush would be in the same jovial mood he was in last season after he and Kyle Larson got together on the closing lap and, when the bumping, banging and racing is done, Kyle Larson finishes first? Yeah… that’s my opinion, too…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 29, 2019 – 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

Sonoma Road Course With A New-Old Twist from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take on the road course at Sonoma. It will be the same old road course with a new twist on the old course layout. Of course, I know you’ve already heard they will running on the old layout of the track which includes the carousel and it hasn’t been used for the Cup Stock Cars of NASCAR in a very long time.

So, what is so special about the race at Sonoma this weekend? Well… I guess you could say there are several things and one of them has to do with Darrell Waltrip. He is retiring from the broadcast booth after this race on Sunday afternoon after almost twenty years in that part of the NASCAR scene. He hasn’t been in an actual race in a long time but has been around NASCAR for most of his life. His first race in what is now called the Cup series was at Talladega in 1972 and he was a very important factor for many years. (I was a fan of his for a long time, too.)

Another reason this race is special, (and not just this season), is because it is a challenging racetrack and demands a lot from the drivers and teams for the entirety of the race. To add to the challenge for the MENCS teams is that this is the first time in twenty years the series has used the carousel part of the track and it is the first time any of the present day drivers have driven the course in this fashion. That should make an always interesting Sonoma Road Course race even more interesting and it could open the door for someone that hasn’t won this season to win and that appears to be the way many are thinking.

Of course, we all know there are those that are expected to perform at, or near, the front and there are those many think WILL win simply because they have won in the past. From this fan’s view, I’m not at all sure which of them might win but I will say there are those I would rather see win than others.

I won’t go into that just yet but, I will say something I never thought I would say. “I’m tired of seeing the same few drivers win,” even though several years back, I liked it when my favorite driver was winning a lot of races. I couldn’t understand, then, why other fans felt the way I do now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that none of my favorite drivers are winning and it could be that the Chevys still struggle to find speed and track position when it counts, even after two years of working with the Camaro.

Yeah, I know they are making progress but I’ve been a Chevy fan for a long time and, in my opinion for whatever reason they chose the Camaro, I still think it was a bad choice and there is something about it that just doesn’t perform like the Fords and Toyotas on the track. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is but I don’t think it’s all about horsepower. That may have something to do with it but there is something about hooking it all up to the track that is different. I’m not an engineer, never claimed to be, but in my amateur opinion something makes the Chevy struggle more than the other two makes, even when they are out front in clean air. (Now that I’ve said all that, maybe it does have “a little” something to do with horsepower after all, even though NASCAR has limited the amount they can have…)

One thing about the race Sunday afternoon at Sonoma is that I think it will be much more interesting than the race at Michigan two weeks ago. The Sonoma track is narrow and yet fast in some areas even though the average speed is under 100 mph for this two plus mile circuit. To this fan, Michigan was a rather humdrum race and, if it hadn’t been for the cautions and restarts, it wouldn’t have had much action at all. I disagree with those that say it was a great race and heard more than one say it was great to see that the leader couldn’t pull away from the rest when they got out front. That didn’t make it interesting any more than the little bit of two and three wide racing there was. That may have been true but there was still a limited amount of passing and a lot of follow the leader.

It is likely that the usual and expected ones will run out front. To name a few would be the most talked about drivers like, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kurt and Kyle Bush. Personally though, this fan would really like to see someone win that hasn’t won so far this season. Though there are many that fall into that category, a few I would really like to see win would be David Ragan, Michael McDowell, William Byron, Alex Bowman and, yes, even Jimmie Johnson. Though the others mentioned are the most talked about, these have a good shot at winning on Sunday afternoon also. It all depends on how the strategies play out and how many mistakes AREN’T made…

Well… at least that’s this fan’s view…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 22, 2019 – 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

MENCS Take On High Speed Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well… it’s another one of those races that not too many are willing to admit how they think it will go. There are good reasons for that but the main one has to do with the fact this is the first time this package has been used at the Michigan International Speedway by the MENCS teams. As in recent previous weeks, there will be limited horsepower and maximum downforce and it should prove to be a very interesting race.

From this fan’s view, it looks like the Fords could have a very solid day if practice and qualifying give us any idea of performance for the race. I’ve never been one to put too much stock in qualifying times but, the Fords and Toyotas both appear to have a slight advantage over the Chevys. The Stewart/Haas teams do appear, at least so far, to be the fastest over the rest on the long runs and it could be a long day for those that can’t keep up the same pace.

Now I know you probably think Kyle Bush should have a chance at taking the win away from the Fords and I agree. That could be a real possibility with the way he’s been running over this first part of the season. Last weekend at Pocono, Kyle had the fastest car and, although he didn’t win going away from the rest, he did win handily. That could carry over to this Sunday afternoon but I’m not all that sure.

Since I’ve brought up the Pocono thing, it might be good time to offer my opinion of the race last weekend. (I know, I know… this is just about where I do this every week lately, huh?)

The race last weekend at Pocono was one of the more interesting ones there I have seen in recent times. To start off with, I wasn’t sure what the competition was going to look like but it turned out to be interesting all the way through. (Notice I didn’t say “very interesting.”) It really was a very good race but I have to be honest and say it wasn’t spectacular, but I admit, it was “very good.”

It is also my opinion, Kyle Bush wouldn’t have won it if Kevin Harvick and the #4 SHR team hadn’t beaten themselves. Yes, I admit, Kyle was fast but I’m not so sure he was going to beat Kevin Harvick without the error and part failure. Be that as it may, Kyle did win and was on the outside pole when the race started, so there is no doubt he had the speed needed to do what he did.

I have to admit, Kyle Bush is probably one of the best ever to sit in a MENCS stock car. He has a lot of talent along with a lot of desire to win. I know there will be a lot of you that disagree with me but not everything about him is all that great. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions. I’m not going to say he isn’t all that great because he is. He shows his talents and abilities week in and week out and not just in the Cup series. It all shows up in his win record and by where he usually finishes at the end of a race – often very near the front.

Yes, this fan thinks Kyle Bush is one of the best ever but this fan also thinks he is the biggest griper. If he’s not winning, he moans and groans and blames the cars and the 2019 NASCAR mandated rule package for his inability to win every race. Who knows, he might be right but someone wins with this same package even when he doesn’t.

Oh well… Back to this weekend’s race.

As I stated earlier, the Fords do look to be the ones to watch based on what I observed in the practice and qualifying sessions. Joey Logano took the pole position and there are a bunch of Fords in the top five and even in the top ten.

Unfortunately it appears the Chevys aren’t quite up to the task except for Kurt Bush. From this fan’s view, they just might struggle to gain spots on Sunday afternoon and even the Toyotas looked to be more competitive than the Chevys, especially the JGR Toyotas of Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin. They were particularly noticeable in the speed category compared to the Chevys.

Since this is an impound race, I’m sure the race will show much of what I’ve said here may not happen the way I think it will and is just because you can’t tell much from practice and qualifying. Still, I do believe this could be a banner day for the SHR Fords and the Penske Fords. Which of them might win is anybody’s guess and they might get beat by themselves or because of the way the cars were set up for qualifying as compared to race setup.

One thing is certain. The Michigan International Speedway is a high speed track and all of them will be running flat out, even in packs running two or three wide. If nothing else, it should prove to be very interesting to watch and, if there are a bunch of cautions and restarts, it could be anybody’s race, including someone driving a Chevy…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 8, 2019 – 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

Pocono May Or May Not Be As Tricky This Time from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Once again, it’s time for the MENCS teams to take on the “Tricky Triangle” for the first of the two races there this summer. BUT it is still up in the air as to whether or not it will be as “tricky” this time around as in the past. With the latest rules package they have been using over the last several races with lots of downforce and which limits them to only 550 horsepower, this fan isn’t sure just how the racing will be on this long “what turn 4” racetrack. I’m not even sure the drivers and crews know how this one will go until it actually gets started.

From this fan’s view, practice didn’t tell us very much other than the speeds on the straights are down and the turn speeds are up. After paying close attention to qualifying, another thing was quite obvious and it had to do with speed through the turns. Once they gave up time in a turn to the other drivers, it was quite a gap to make up afterwards. That could give an idea of how the racing could go on Sunday (barring rain, that is) and it is another reason I just can’t figure out what kind of racing it’s going to be. Of course I realize no one really cares what I can figure out and I’m okay with that. What I do want to say is that I really do hope the racing is good and not just another follow the leader type of thing.

Now let me add, I don’t think it will be a runaway for one or two drivers but, with the way things go at times, chances are high that one person could dominate the whole race. Let me also add, it depends on which driver and team it might be that dominates that will make all the difference in whether I like it or not.

Taking a quick look back at the 600 at Charlotte last weekend, many people have stated they thought it was the best 600 ever. I can’t say that I disagree and it was a very interesting race for the entirety of the 600 miles.

My biggest question (along with many others) is, “Why was it that way. What might have been the reason or reasons for it being viewed that way?” Was it because of the package they ran with high downforce and marginalized horse power? Was it because there were four stages? Was it really just a better race or did it have to do with the sixteen cautions?

Well, I can’t answer for everybody but, I do have to give you my opinion. I think it had more to do with the multiple cautions along with the four stages resulting in a large number of restarts and closer racing which, in turn lead to a more interesting and exciting race. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

Some mentioned it was because this particular package NASCAR mandates is particularly good at night races. That also may be the case or, at least, one possibility but there is one other reason I would like to bring up. Although I know there are a lot of possible reasons for the more interesting and exciting racing with this particular package, I have another opinion to offer. It may just be my imagination, but it seems since they mandated the higher spoiler on the rear deck lid that it had at least something to do with equalizing the competition.

Before the higher spoiler, the Chevys had trouble keeping up with the Toyotas and Fords. Afterwards – and, admittedly, it could be coincidental – it seemed the Chevys immediately became more competitive. I realize all the teams put in a lot of work to go fast and the Toyotas and Fords have been faster than the Chevys for almost two seasons. Now we not only see the Chevys consistently qualifying at or near the front but, they are more competitive at the end of the races, too.

Okay, now that I’ve stated my view, I have to ask, “Will the racing be as interesting at Pocono with the same package they’ve been running (including at Charlotte and Kansas?) If all we have are the breaks at the stages and long green flag runs, I’m not so sure. I’m not saying that’s the way it will go, but it is a possibility. It is also possible there could be some extra cautions and that the race could be wrought with accidents. We haven’t really seen how they will run when they actually start the race and all of the drivers are jostling for position as the enter the first turn, head to turn two, the tunnel turn, and make a near 90 degree turn towards turn three (or that area that’s missing turn four.)

Just a thought a I close this out. William Byron has won his third pole starting position and I can’t help but wonder if he might not show us a repeat of Denny Hamlin back in his rookie year when he sat on the pole and won both races that year. Will this be Byron’s first win in the MENCS and at one of NASCAR’s trickiest tracks? Well, I’m not making any predictions but… let’s just say… um… It’s a possibility…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 1, 2019 – 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