Nascar at Loudon: Great Racing Marks the First Race of the Chase from Just A Fan’s View

The race in Loudon last Sunday gave Nascar fans everywhere something to consider about the remaining nine races in the Chase. It won’t be wise to look for a bunch of teams to just run around hoping to finish ahead of everyone else in the points race to the end of the season.

From this fan’s view to anyone that thought the Chase guys were going to lay low and see what the others did in the Chase races, well they can rest assured there is going to be plenty of excitement in the weeks to come.

To briefly recap the weekend in Loudon, Mark Martin, the ‘old guy’ that’s been racing like a ‘young guy’, held off an aggressive Juan Montoya to take home the trophy from the Sylvania 300 Sunday afternoon. The racing was close and exciting right down to the wire and the double file restarts didn’t hurt the “excit-o-meter” at the end of the race, either. If this is what we have to look forward to for the next nine races, it’s this fan’s opinion not even NFL football will have a larger audience. Now, all of that remains to be seen, but, I wouldn’t recommend missing any of the action in the coming weeks.

One of the hot topics after the Sylvania 300 concerned how a few of the “Chasers” just didn’t have a good weekend. Now, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards not performing well wasn’t too unexpected by many in the know, but Jeff Gordon was another story.

At the start of the race, Jeff was competitive as many expected he would be considering how strong they ran in June. However, they quickly lost the handle on the 24 car and never returned to the hunt for the checkered flag which I know was very disappointing to Jeff and crew chief, Steve Latarte along with the rest of the team.

Amidst quite a bit of seeming chaos over at RPM in the past week, Kasey Kahne’s loss of an engine sent up all kinds of flags about the coming changes in that camp. I won’t go into it here because I think too many have said too much already, but I will say that it put Kasey’s Kahne’s team in a very bad position for the remainder for the Chase. The odds are pretty much against them making a real run for the Sprint Cup from here on out. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance in the hottest of places, but it does mean they have major hurdles to overcome if they want to finish near, or at the top, of the standings by the time the season ends at Homestead in November.

Even though Greg Biffle did climb three places in the standings this last weekend, it doesn’t mean that much except that it puts an accent on how bad the others, now behind him, finished. It is this fan’s opinion the Roush teams are experiencing one of those years that all teams dread facing and can’t wait until next year to hopefully get back on the competitive side of the track. Although Greg and Carl haven’t been performing all that bad, (seeing as how they made it into the Chase), they obviously aren’t happy with the way the season has shaped up so far. (As Mark Martin would say, “The racing gods just aren’t smiling on them this year.”)

If you check what I said about the Hendrick teams in the pre-race article (Nascar at Loudon: …) you will find that I expected Dale Jr to have a strong performance. As it turns out, he was having a great day until a racing incident with David Reutimann put him into the wall and out of contention for the day. Dale Jr was noticeably disappointed and made some strong comments about the incident after the race. It is my opinion as a fan, that it was mostly adrenaline and disappointment speaking and we all know that stuff just happens.

Although I know it is w-a-a-a-y too early to start naming the winner of the Sprint Cup, the first week was interesting and really shook up the standings of the top twelve. Just take a quick look at how Juan Montoya moved up seven places. A minor setback during the race with an axle cap moved Tony Stewart back four places. His teammate, Ryan Newman, moved up three places and Kurt Bush moved up two. That the leaves the Hendrick teams of Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson at the top of the heap along with JGR’s Denny Hamlin, in week one of the Chase and although not too many didn’t expect the 48 team to be up there, Mark Martin is having a dream season and, in his own words, “The time of his life.” Perhaps a little unexpected, Denny Hamlin is riding a wave of momentum that started and has carried over from the last several weeks of racing up to the Chase.

Any way you look at it, those that had a bad week at Loudon need a couple of really good weeks to gain back some of the spots they lost and those that had a good week would have to have a couple of really bad weeks to help them gain those spots back. To this fan, that makes the next couple of weeks very important to all involved and, to tell the truth, I can’t wait to see how it all pans out…

See ya next time…
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© September 23, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman


Nascar at Loudon: And So The Chase Begins…

The Chase begins at Loudon, NH and though the pressure is off in some ways, it is just beginning in others. All of the teams in the top twelve are breathing a little easier this weekend than they did last weekend because, the worst they can finish is twelfth place. This weekend will be like starting a new season and no matter what, for the next ten weeks “one race does not a season make.”

It is this fan’s opinion that all of the teams are looking to come away from NHIS with momentum for the next race. The challenge as I see it is, will it be one of the usual teams or someone totally unexpected that drives into Victory Lane at the end of the Sylvania 300. The way I see it, it could go either way.

If we just look at the performance during the practices and the qualifying, Juan Montoya could be awfully hard to beat Sunday afternoon. He has been extremely strong since the first practice and if he continues on the same path, he could lead this race from the first lap to the last. Now, I’m not saying he will, I’m just saying it is possible.

Even as I say that, I can honestly say there are about six or seven others that have a chance to take that opportunity away from the 42 team. It could easily be Martin Truex Jr that drives past Montoya and wins. He has also been strong so far all weekend and has been showing some real strength over the last several weeks. He just needs a consistent performance and it could prove to be the demise of Montoya’s chance for victory.

With the way things have been going for the Hendrick teams this year, I think it would be a little short-sighted to rule any of them out, (and that includes Dale Jr.) They didn’t actually perform that poorly since unloading off the trucks and I’m just not sure they’ve shown all they have yet. I do know Jeff Gordon is hungry for a victory along with his crew chief, Steve Letarte. Don’t forget they could very well have been the victors in the June race that was shortened by rain and Steve Letarte thinks he has something to prove to the rest of the field.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about all of the Hendrick teams, even though there is a lot to talk about this year. Jimmy Johnson and crew chief, Chad Knaus, could break out of their minor slump and do what they are known for in the last ten races of the season lately, and that’s win!

Mark Martin can never be ruled out and his crew chief Allan Gustafson would like nothing better than to put him in Victory Lane this weekend and at the head table at the Sprint Cup banquet. If they do manage to go all the way to the head table, it will be an amazing feel-good moment for almost all of Nascar. (I only say it that way because there’s always somebody that doesn’t like anything.)

I know it would be a long shot, but I do know Dale Jr can break into the win column this weekend. We all know he has the equipment to win with, I just think it is a matter of finding his comfort level. Once they do that as a team, look out! It could be the start of something big for the #88 Hendrick team.

We won’t even talk about all of the ones that would be completely unexpected winners this weekend but there are those that just have to be pointed out. Kurt Bush, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and even Clint Bowyer are all running good enough to win the Sylvania 300. All but two of the ones I just mentioned are in the top twelve in points and any one of them could win.

I’m just not sure whether it will be one of the above mentioned teams or someone totally unexpected; there’s just no way to be certain because this is Nascar and, as I’ve said and has been proven many times before, “Anything can happen.”

One thing is certain for this weekend… Nascar Sprint Cup teams plan to race in New Hampshire on Sunday and it is the first race of the Chase for the 2009 season. Judging from the practice sessions and the qualifying there is definitely a great possibility of some surprises. Taking all of that into consideration, this fan’s view says it is anybody’s guess what will happen and who will come away from Loudon with some momentum for next week.

See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© September 19, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman


Nascar at Richmond After Chatter: The Race That Set The Chase For 2009

From this fan’s view, the race at Richmond showed why the addition of the Chase format has added a great dimension to the Nascar Championship.

No matter how you look at it, The Chase makes the end of the season run for the Sprint Cup Championship much more exciting and dramatic. I have heard a lot of conversation on how good, or bad, the Chase is for the fans and Nascar over the few last weeks and, I’m sorry, but I just have to add my two cents.

I know there will be those that disagree with me on this, but let’s take a look at the obvious facts…

If, (and I stress the word “if” once again), we went back to the old way of doing things, we notice before the race in Richmond, Tony Stewart was leading the points by 237 points over Jeff Gordon, was 290 ahead of Jimmy Johnson and 398 ahead of Denny Hamlin. Looking further at the list showed Carl Edwards next in line at 532 points behind Stewart and from there it just got worse.

Looking at that information tells me the competition for the Cup might have been fairly interesting between the top three but the rest of the top fourteen were pretty much out of contention. With a lead like Tony had on the field, it was a pretty sure bet he would have continued to walk away with the Championship. The Chase changed all that and, this year in particular, made the whole process even more interesting than in the past few years.

Why is this year so different? Just look at how important this last race was to spots 11 -14. Look at how it affected Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers and Kyle Bush. Look at the fact of Kyle Bush not making the Chase even though he won four races this year.

Even further, look at how almost completely the standings were mixed up AFTER the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 all because of the tweak of adding bonus points last year for every win!

Mark Martin moved up 9 spots to first place, Tony Stewart back one to second, Jimmy Johnson and Denny Hamlin retained their positions of 3rd and 4th and Kasey Kahne moved up one more to 5th. Jeff Gordon lost four spots back to 6th, Kurt Bush stayed in 7th, Brian Vickers moved up 5 spots from 13th to 8th and Carl Edwards lost 4 spots ending up in 9th. (Now, bear with me for just a little bit longer); Ryan Newman lost one spot moving to 10th, Juan Montoya lost 3 back to 11th and Greg Biffle lost 1 spot ending up in the 12th and final spot for the Chase. Matt Kenseth lost 2 spots and Kyle Bush gained 1 and neither one of them made the Chase.

If that isn’t mixing up the standings after just one weekend of racing, I don’t know what is…

Kyle Bush winning 4 races and not making the Chase has been one of the hot topics following Saturday night’s race with several saying Nascar should change the rules about those that can make the Chase. The ones that are in support of that say it just isn’t fair for someone to win four or more races and not make the Chase.

As a fan, I say they should leave the way the Chase is decided alone. Right now, there is no reason to make a change just to include winners of races or possibly expand the number of those allowed in the Chase. If someone wins a bunch of races during the first 26 races of the season and yet doesn’t qualify for the Chase should not make any difference. Nascar has always been about consistency and offering a free ticket into the top 12 for “just winning” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The winner of the Championship should be the one that consistently finishes at or near the front most every week and has the points to show for it, not just the most wins.

See ya next time…

© September 16, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View  and Rusty Norman


Nascar at Atlanta: The Pep Boys Auto 500 After Chatter from Just A Fan’s View

Well, I told you it would very likely be a surprise ending to the race in Atlanta on Sunday night and it was. I never really expected Kasey Kahne to be the one to pull it off though and I never really expected the top three to be Kahne, Harvick and Montoya. Even the fourth place going to David Reutimann was quite a surprise to this fan…

As the teams prepare for the last race before the Chase this coming weekend at Richmond, things have tightened up just a bit more for those trying to keep their places in the top twelve and those that are trying their level best to get in the top twelve.

I admire the resiliency shown by a few of the teams in the face of adversity this last weekend. One in particular would be Bryan Vickers. Even though he broke an axle, the Red Bull #83 managed to pull off a seventh place finish and that says a lot for a team very close to breaking into the top twelve in points and how bad they want it. All things considered, changing out that axle on a caution near the end of the race and not even losing a lap was pretty spectacular.

The Atlanta race was a race that made it very obvious, if it can go wrong it will and plenty of teams had problems on Sunday night. To some it didn’t make any difference since they are locked in the Chase already, (like Jimmy Johnson’s broken axle), but others saw their hopes either disappear or diminish greatly as they tried to hold on even through the problems.

Clint Bowyer watched as his hopes disappeared for this year, but they can be proud of the showing they made this season. It is this fan’s opinion, next year looks very promising for them as Chase contenders. In fact, I think we will see all of the Richard Childress teams perform much better in the coming year. It appears, at least on the surface, they’ve begun to get a handle on their new cars and engine packages and this fan thinks the worst is behind them.

Kurt Bush and Carl Edwards didn’t quite have the kind of night they were hoping for either.

Kurt fought a loose car all night and finally ended up putting it in the wall with a little help from Reed Sorenson with less than a hundred laps to go. For one that looked like he would lock himself in the Chase by the end of the night, now he has another week of having to perform well, just in case the unexpected happens.

Carl Edwards quite simply had a bad week and a bad night making the Race for the Chase even tighter for him this coming weekend, although he does have about a 105 point cushion. Another week like last week and it is anybody’s guess where he will finish. It is just an observation from this fan, but he has not had what could be called a stellar year. I’m sure Carl thinks the year so far has been a pretty mediocre year to his standards. Even though they have been performing well, they have had their problems all year long (along with all the Roush cars.)

Okay, let’s take a look at some of the most important things about the race to the Chase as the teams depart Atlanta and head for Richmond. Going into Atlanta, only 89 points separated the 7th spot from the 14th spot. Coming out of Atlanta, 112 points separate spots 7 to 14 but only 86 points separate 10th to 14th. That makes the outlook for the race in Richmond to be full of drama, in particular for those 5 spots.

A closer look at what actually happened with the points and the top six to twelve positions shows Kasey Kahne moved up 5 positions, Kurt Bush lost 1 position, Juan Montoya gained 1 position, Ryan Newman lost 2 positions and Greg Biffle lost 3 positions. With movement like that and the few points separating those just outside the top twelve from Matt Kenseth, it makes for very interesting possibilities at Richmond.

Bryan Vickers and Kyle Bush are only 20 to 37 points behind Matt Kenseth while David Reutimann is 132 points out. Mark Martin, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth have to have good finishes this coming weekend or it could totally change the last three spots of 10th to 12th.

Considering how this year has gone with its ups and downs for some of the teams either finishing up front or in the back, I still say ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN this weekend in Richmond and that definitely makes it one of the most important Nascar races to watch. This one is going down to the wire folks, and barring the unforeseen, we won’t know everything until the checkered flag falls at Richmond…

See ya next time…
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© September 9, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman


Nascar At Atlanta: Spots 7 to 14 Are Separated by Only 89 Points as The Chase for The Chase Winds Down

Atlanta will prove to be interesting for those trying to stay, or make it into the Chase for 2009. Spots 7 to 14 are only separated by 89 points with two races to go and even Clint Bowyer in spot 15 has a chance to still make it in. Of course, it will almost take two miraculous interventions over the next two races, but it is still possible he could make it … That is, “IF” … and it is anawfully big “IF”.

Of all the teams that had a chance to move into the top 12 in the last few weeks, Clint Bowyer’s team has had the worst luck of the ones that even had a chance. From just not being able to get a good finish, to being accidentally spun out by his team mate, Kevin Harvick, his chances are way down from the rest of the contenders for the top twelve spots. I really feel for him and his team, but as I said, unless some of the the others ahead of him have some really bad problems, he doesn’t have much of chance. I know they will come back strong next season and I am sure they will be in there contending for the top twelve in next years race for the Chase.

When you think about their performance this year, they’ve done a pretty good job for what could really be considered a first year team.

Looking at the starting lineup for today shows an interesting mix at the front of the pack. We see Martin Truex on the pole with Kasey Kahne on the outside. Second row is all Hendrick with Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Third row is the Bush brothers Kyle and Kurt, one of them is definitely trying to get into the top twelve and the other one is in. In the fourth row we see Mark Martin and Bryan Vickers, one trying to stay in the top twelve and the other trying to get in. Just those fours rows make the drama very obvious for the race tonight. With the points the way they are in positions 7 through 14, anything can still happen.

So what else could possibly make this Chase more dramatic than it already is? I’m not sure, but I know that after the race finishes tonight, a lot of things will either be much clearer or a lot closer and more muddy. It all depends on who finishes where… and it depends on whether or not anything strange happens to one the drivers trying to stay in that top twelve area in the Chase points, (like what happened to Carl Edwards this week while playing frisbee.)

I can’t remember when the race to The Chase has been more interesting than it has been this year. We have had several teams kinda “in there” all along and others that have been in and out and in again for most of the last half of the season. I can tell you, if the season continues on the way it has over the last several weeks, I have no idea who is going to be in the last 6 spots of the Chase standings.

One good thing about all these goings on has been the interest it has managed to generate in the drama of the Chase. With so many on the edge of making it, or not making it, people are as interested in it as the playoffs for the World Series. I have heard more people talking about the possibilities more this year than any I have since the Chase began. As a long time Nascar fan, I am happy to see the interest, but it hasn’t taken all of the uncertainty to keep me interested. I just love the fact that the drama continues right up to these last two races.

As for who is going to win this weekend, I really think it will be an unexpected victory. It could be someone like Martin Truex, Jr, Bryan Vicke rs, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Bush. Some will likely insert the names of Kyle Bush (who really needs a win to get in the top twelve), or Matt Kenseth. I just think it is going to be a hard one to call because of the closeness of the gap between those so close to being in or being out of the Chase.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Jeff Gordon pull off the victory because I know that he and his crew chief would like to go into the coming weeks with a little momentum. It is awfully hard to rule out any of the Hendrick teams along with the 24 although I do think Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson have a better chance than Dale Jr. Also, I can’t rule out the Stewart/Haas teams. Both can run very strong at Atlanta and that should make for an interesting mix come tonight.

I think I’ll just leave it where it is and root for the guy I would like to see win. I won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t, but, I would like to see him take not only this race in Atlanta, but the Cup Championship, as well. Who is that … well, if you don’t know by now, I don’t see any reason to let you in on all my secrets just yet so we’ll just leave it at this…  He’s been around a while … Does that help??

See ya next time …

© September 6, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View & Rusty Norman

Nascar at Bristol: Thunder Valley After Chatter from Just A Fan’s View

Kyle Bush held off a hard charging Mark Martin and brought home the victory for the #18 M&M’s/Joe Gibbs Toyota in the closing laps of the Sharpie 500 in Thunder Valley. Mark Martin led the most laps and had the dominate car most of the afternoon but could only manage second place. Along with all that drama, the end of the race saw Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon mathematically locked into the Chase while the standings were shaken up once again closer to the break point of, 12th place.

I guess it came as no surprise to many that Kyle Bush came away with the victory, but I have to admit it was just a little unexpected from this fan’s view. Sure, we all know Kyle runs very strong at Bristol but lately he and his #18 team have been struggling.

Personally, I didn’t think his luck was going to take a turn for the good just yet. From the way he had been running in Cup recently, it looked as though he could be in jeopardy of making the Chase and it didn’t appear to me that he was going to make it. Now, with two races left to decide the top twelve, it could very well be that he not only makes it in, but could have a great chance of being one of the top contenders if he does. If he has a good week in Atlanta and then in Richmond, watch out for what that kind of momentum could mean for his chances in taking the championship.

There wasn’t a lot of controversy coming out of Bristol. In fact, the Sharpie 500 was a typical Bristol race, with plenty of short track excitement and continuous action.

With the race at Bristol being followed by a weekend off, it appears that the time will be enjoyed by the competitors in the way they usually choose to enjoy a weekend off. For some, it will be another weekend of racing while for others it will be taking a breather in preparation for the next twelve weeks.

The focus of most of the ones in the 7th to 15th position in the standings is the race in Atlanta next week where they hope to solidify their place in the top twelve or break into the top twelve with a good finish. Time is running out for those outside the top twelve to make a spot for themselves in the Chase. Atlanta will very likely decide all but one or two of those that will actually make it.

For now, everyone draws a breath and prepares for Atlanta. Atlanta will be a turning point for some and for others, the end of the dream for this year’s Chase. All eyes will be on the ones that absolutely have to have a good finish to either remain in the Chase or move into it.

See ya next time … Rusty

(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© August 29, 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Bristol: Sprint Cup Returns To Short Track Racing in Thunder Valley

How about that “Old Guy”, Mark Martin? Another pole starting position and that makes five on the year, so far, for the guy that wasn’t even supposed to be racing this year and who will be making his 1000th start in the Nascar Cup Series Saturday night in Thunder Valley.

I always find it interesting how Mark Martin talks about his qualifying experiences week in and week out. He doesn’t step out and say things like, “I think I left a little out there, I hope it holds up…” or, “Well, it was a good run but I think I could have gone a little faster…” No, he says things like, “I’ve never been so scared in my life, I can’t believe how fast that lap was…”, or “It is unbelievable how loose the car was; there’s no way that lap could have been that good… I can’t believe I’m on the pole.”

Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. He never criticizes his crew chief, car owner or the team. He is always saying how hard they work and how good a car they’ve provided for him. It’s just that, (and I think this is the key), he is outside his comfort zone. To get the results he is getting, he is pressing the envelope of comfort he would like to be in — keeping it right on the edge — and getting those poles and victories shows that’s what it takes. (Not bad for an “Old Guy”. Hey, I can say that ’cause I am one.)

He may be enjoying what is going on for him this year, but he isn’t as “comfortable” as he would like to be. He also says the pressure of making the Chase is taking a little bit of the fun out of all the good stuff going on for him this year. Although he has had some bad luck during the year, he is performing well but, he also doesn’t want to waste all of these “good results” when he is so close to making the Chase. It is this fan’s opinion, once he definitely makes it into the Chase this year, his racing life in Nascar will once again be fun for Mark Martin.

Once again, I don’t think where someone qualified is going to tell too much about where they will finish. During qualifying, it definitely looked as though many were taken a bit by surprise by how slick the track was. It looked like many missed the setup on their qualifying runs. That makes it look even more like it will be a very exciting race because, the outside lane is going to prove very “racey”, also.

One thing that can be said about Bristol; you don’t pass that many people in the pits. This is one track that is a driver’s track. When you win at Bristol, it is usually because the driver did his job. That doesn’t mean the crews and what they do doesn’t matter. It simply means that if the crews give the driver a good car setup, the driver is more responsible for the end result. The crew still has to do their part, but, more passing is going to be done on the track “rather” than in the pits.

I disagree with the overall consensus that Kyle Bush is the strong favorite to win the Sharpie 500 this weekend. It is this fan’s opinion there is just too much that has been going wrong for him this year. He may have won the Truck race but look what happened to him in the Nationwide race. To win these days a lot has to go right. He has the same chance as anyone else to take the victory, but he also has the same chance as anyone else to have something go wrong not of their own making. At Bristol, anything –and I stress the word, a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g — can happen to change the outcome of the race.

Bristol is a track that demands a lot from the competitors and in particular the demand on their ability to endure mentally and physically throughout the race. This is a place that breeds short tempers and high emotions. That sometimes causes the drivers to react in ways that changes the whole outcome of the night for them and for those that happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.

The winner tonight could be a total surprise. It could be someone like Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann or even Scott Speed. Actually, out of those three, I would probably pick Marcos Ambrose but he is a dark horse to me for tonight’s race.

Just looking at the last practice shows me some pretty strong possibilities for winners but it also gives a false impression. As always, the fastest single laps don’t mean that much in a race like this; it is the ones that can run the most consistent lap times on a regular basis and handle different lines on the track when they have to pass. In my opinion, that is the thing that will be the deciding factor in tonight’s race. Yes, track position is going to be important, but so is being able to pass when the need arises. That’s what makes tonight’s race hard to call.

I look at the Hendrick teams as possible winners tonight because they have been running strong all year just about everywhere. When I say Hendrick teams I also include the Stewart/Haas camp also. Now, the Roush cars are even looking good for tonight. Either Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards in particular could pull it off tonight. It just depends on what happens and when.

In fact, there are any number of individuals that could end up in Victory Lane tonight but unfortunately only one will. Do I think it will be one of the Bush brothers? No, not really. I think it’s going to be someone from the Hendrick camps. Only problem is, I’m not sure whether it will be Mark Martin or Jimmy Johnson. Even though I know Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart have an excellent chance for winning tonight, I’m going to go with a one two finish of Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson…

Now, it’s up to you to figure out which one will be first and which one will be second. My choice is J J but, it could be M M … what do you think…

See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 22, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

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Nascar at Michigan: The Carfax 400 “After Chatter”

The Carfax 400 came down to a fuel mileage race once again and didn’t disappoint, especially if you like drama and are a Red Bull Team, Bryan Vickers fan.

It really looked like Jimmy Johnson was going to take the win until he ran out of gas with a little over two laps to go. Up to that point he had led the most laps of the race, adding up to 133. The only thing left to see after that was whether or not Bryan Vickers would run out of gas, (as Greg Biffle did back in June), and turn the lead over to Jeff Gordon or Dale Jr.

As we all now know, Bryan Vickers managed to conserve enough fuel to finish the race, run the cool down lap and do a partial burnout after winning the Carfax 400 at MIS. However, he did need to be pushed into victory lane. That just tells you how close the mileage was figured by those that decided to try and get fifty one laps on a tank of fuel. For some it worked and for others, like Mark Martin, it did not.

In fact, Jimmy Johnson was running first when he ran out of fuel and finished 33rd. Mark Martin was running just outside the top ten and finished 31st. After the race, the biggest question as the teams left Michigan was, why did Mark’s crew chief take the chance? Even He was wondering if it was worth the risk after it was all over.

All in all, this was a good race and went pretty much as I expected. As far as I could tell from much of the pre-race chatter, everyone expected it would probably come down to a fuel mileage race and it did although many question why it had to. Personally, I just didn’t think they would be stretching out the fuel so many laps. Many wonder why so many teams decided to take the track position over fuel, especially knowing that the race in June pretty much pushed things to the limit.

If we take a close look at a couple of drivers, we see that both Jeff Gordon and Bryan Vickers managed to push the fuel envelope to the 50 plus lap limit and it worked out well for them.

One just has to wonder what the limit will be next time Nascar shows up at MIS. Unless someone is way out front in the waning laps next time, I just don’t see how they can save much more fuel than they have the last two times out. After all, no one expected they could go more laps than they did in June and now it appears the August race has set the new watermark for laps run on a tank of fuel.

From this fans view, I don’t think anyone is going to try to go further than they did last Sunday at MIS. It is possible they could, you understand, but it just doesn’t seem the risk outweighs the advantage after a certain point. I mean, even the guys that tried it and failed this time are thinking that maybe they should have done it differently. It is my opinion they won’t want to chance loosing the points for such a long shot in the future. But, as we all well know…this is Nascar Sprint Cup racing and no one has ever said that taking chances wasn’t a part of the deal …

See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 19, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar Returns to Michigan: Just A Fan’s View of the Carfax 400 at MIS

Nascar returns to Michigan this weekend and it looks like it could be another fuel mileage race, naturally, depending on when the cautions near the end of the race fall. Some of the fastest cars are Bryan Vickers, Mark Martin, Jimmy Johnson and Juan Montoya. It remains to be seen whether they actually are the faster cars come tomorrow. Racing at Michigan is always full of surprises; that’s just the way it is.

I watched the first practice sessions and the the qualifying and didn’t see too much that surprised me, but the last two sessions began to make me wonder just who was getting a handle on what the track would most likely be like at race time tomorrow.

Now I have to be honest, even though I like the Michigan races, to me they do tend to be a bit unexciting, at least until nearer the end. It is a wide track and has multiple grooves. The drivers can pass on the high side and and low side, why they can even pass in the middle. It’s not the fault of the drivers that the race becomes a little tedious in the middle. It is just a characteristic of the track.

Michigan International Speedway was made to race at least three wide on and to be extremely fast while doing so.  All of the competitors can run in any of the three grooves and they can all run fast.

I think the key to this race is who can get the most out of a gallon of gas and still keep near the front. If all goes as it usually does, someone will be leading near the end trying to stretch the last bit of  gas in the fuel line. Let’s just not forget how things went in June; first Jimmy Johnson ran out of gas on the front straight and then Greg Biffle ran out on the back stretch, leaving Mark Martin to drive across the line and claim the victory.

So, do I think this one is going to come down to a fuel mileage race or a race that could end up like the Nationwide race on Saturday afternoon. Gee, I’m glad you asked that question and, to be honest, it could go either way and it could be very exciting, considering the continuance of the double file restart and the possibility of it coming down to fuel and tires, (mostly fuel.) I do think track position will be important and the one that can handle the top groove on a restart just could hold the key to victory. No matter what happens, the one that can hold their line on the restart will be the one that pulls out ahead. Then the question becomes whether they have enough horses to hold off the rest of the pack around them.

It is hard not to notice that the four Hendrick team cars were in the top ten fastest cars in the final practice. Yeah, I know that doesn’t tell us much because it is only a one lap reading on their speeds and we all know it is who can run consistently fastest the latest in a run. Since two of the Hendrick cars were running up front on the last laps of the race in June, it is awfully hard for me not to think one of the four could come away with the win. Even Dale Jr was eighth fastest in that last practice.

This fan thinks the Carfax 400 is going come down to the last laps just like it did in June. I don’t know for sure but I do think all of the Hendrick cars are going to be in the top15 and that includes Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. I also think this is a race that will show a few surprises at the end with all of the manufacturers performing well.

I won’t rule out the possibility of the Fords of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards being in victory lane, simply because of Greg’s performance in June. I also think Kurt Bush is going to run strong.

Since I like to actually choose a winner, I’m having a hard time choosing, but I do like the chances of Bryan Vickers, Juan Montoya, and even Clint Bowyer and Kyle Bush. But, when it comes right down to it, I’m going to go with Jimmy Johnson. The way he ran last time may not carry over to this race, but I do think him and Chad are coming back with a little something to prove…

See ya next time …


(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 15, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at the Glen: Just A Fan’s View of the Race This Weekend at Watkins Glen

Who knows what this weekend holds … if anyone ever thought for a moment that nothing unexpected ever happens in Nascar these days, maybe they should think again. Except for Jimmy Johnson and Kurt Bush starting on the front row, many of the faces fans would expect to see starting near the front just aren’t there.

Names like, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are in the middle to the back of the pack. One can only think they hope to get their cars handling much better by the end of Happy Hour considering the way they qualified. If not, it could prove to be a very long day for them and their teams.

Some fans wonder why Nascar keeps the two road course races in the schedule mix when there are so many other oval tracks looking for a possible Nascar date.  Others wonder why they don’t have more of them in the schedule. I’m one of the ones that likes both the oval tracks and the road courses they visit and I do agree with those that think at least one road course should be in the schedule during the actual Chase races.

Not many disagree with the thinking that Nascar drivers are the best and most versatile drivers in the world, because they drive on more types of race tracks than those in other series. Not only do they drive on more different types but most of them are competitive on all of them, at least when they have a chance to compete. Yes, some of the owners still bring in “road course ringers” to better their chances of having a good finish for their sponsors, but, many of the main drivers perform as well as any of the “ringers” that are brought in.

So, what do I mean by saying that?

Well, I think it is good to see some of the drivers that are more experienced in road courses being brought in, if, for no other reason, it adds a little diversity to the competition. Names like Ron Fellows and Boris Said are recognized by many Nascar fans even though they are probably better known as road course racers.

Boris Said is probably the better known of the two and, personally, I would like to see him get a regular ride for at least a year. I think he is very talented and could be very successful, given the chance to be in good, competitive equipment and also not having so much pressure to perform right off the bat. If he had a chance to gain more experience in the Cup cars without the pressure of having to perform to keep his sponsorship for more than a few races, I think he could produce some surprising results for the owner that gives him the chance.

Well, I suppose I could go on all day talking about many things that don’t really matter about the race on Sunday at the Glen, but I’m going to move on to which ones of the forty three in the field this fan thinks are going to finish in the top spots. I know I have been at a loss some weeks in the past this season for having a good feel for who will actually win and this weekend is no different.  In my opinion, a road course is a place where anybody can win, but it’s more likely that several have a better chance than the others.

Now I won’t bore you with a bunch of talk about the whys and who’s and how’s, but I do have some very strong thoughts on the one that will actually win. If the last road course race tells anything at all about this one, I do think we will see some pretty strong  contenders from Sonoma in the hunt for tomorrow’s race. Some names that immediately stand out are, Juan Montoya, Denny Hamlin, Boris Said, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne. A few others deserving mention would be Greg Biffle, Ron Fellows, Robby Gordon and Max Papis. I’m also of the opinion you can never count Jeff Gordon out of the mix by where he starts simply because he is such a strong road racer. If crew chief, Steve Letarte, gets the 24 car feeling right for Jeff, look out — it could be a repeat of what Marcos Ambrose did at Sonoma in June.

Although any of these could pull off the victory tomorrow, I don’t think many of them have much of a chance. A road course is all about speed and consistency and the one that generally wins has both all day long. I suspect the winner will more likely be either Marcos Ambrose or Jimmy Johnson. Since I like to pick the possible top five or six, here’s what I think the finishing order will be …

I would put the top six as, Jeff Gordon, Boris Said, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Jimmy Johnson, with Marcos Ambrose bringing home the victory.

I think it is going to be interesting to see how long this race goes without a caution flag. If one comes out near the end, I look for real fireworks because of the double-file restart. With no yellow flag in the last fifteen or twenty laps, this fan expects it could be a relatively uneventful finish, depending on tire wear and fuel mileage. As it stands through all of the practices and qualifying, this race at the Glen could be one of the most surprising and interesting races of the year. Now, that’s not because of who might win … it is more who is going to solidify their place in the top twelve for the Chase and who is going kill their chances of getting in at all …

See ya next time …


(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 8, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Pocono: the Pennsylvania 500 “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View

“Man, this was the best race at Pocono in recent history,” or, at least, that’s what many were saying. I really can’t say I disagree with that take of the Pennsylvania 500. I think it was exactly what we have come to expect in a Nascar race these days, except for the fact that it was run on a Monday.

It was a very good race and, from this fan’s view, it looked as though the drivers forgot this was a 500 mile race and they drove almost every lap as if it was with ten to go. It did seem the intensity of the competition was extremely high and perhaps patience wasn’t quite as evident as usual. (That’s a nice way of saying there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on.)

Now, this is just my opinion, but I think two things added to the intensity for this race. First would be the fact that it is crunch time for those that are trying to make the chase and, second, would be the double file restart. Both of these are adding to the intensity of the racing, especially for those trying to break into the Top 12.

As a Nascar fan, I am relatively tired of one thing that is going on these days and it has nothing to do with the COT, the drivers, their teams or the sanctioning body called, Nascar. It has to do with the commentators’ favorite phrase, “Double-file restart, SHOOTOUT STYLE!” I can’t think of anything they say on a regular basis that is more tiring. If they really want to know the truth, I know I am not alone when it comes to feeling this way. Yes, the double-file restart has added an exciting dimension to the races, but, (and I only speak for myself on this part), every time they speak that phrase, it puts a knot in my stomach, (in other words, it makes me sick.) I do hope by next season, they lose that phrase and find a new one.

Why would I even be talking about this here? I don’t know, I think it is just because it is so sickening. If you ask most observers and followers of Nascar, you will find most are wondering why they waited so long to institute the double-file restart. The other way had outlived its importance and reason for being quite a while ago and, with the closeness of competition these days and the importance of being in “clean air”, the move to using the double-file restart was long overdue. I join with all the other voices in praise of the move and I am glad they did it.

Okay, let’s get back to Sunday’s race at Pocono. There was one thing that keeps on coming up in conversations and that, unfortunately, is where some think Nascar blew it again. The comparison is the incidents between Robby Gordon and David Stremme and Denny Hamlin taking out two of Michael Waltrip Racing’s cars, the cars of David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. Admittedly, if Nascar would have handled the Denny Hamlin incident the same as the Gordon/Stremme situation, Denny Hamlin would not have won the race.

I do understand the difference between the two – kinda – but I do see what the rub is. Some would use the argument of inconsistency. Nascar would call the one (the Hamlin incident) a racing incident while the other (the Gordon/Stremme incident) was an ongoing feud over several laps. Even though it is logical, I do see how it can be slightly misconstrued by the casual observer. The only answer is that it is a judgment call and yes, in Nascar’s judgment, the one was a problem and the other was a “racing incident”.

Well, enough on that subject for now. I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about on that subject in the near future. As for my opinion on the race at Pocono, I thought it was a very interesting race. I could say I expected Denny Hamlin to win, but even though I did mention him as a possible winner in the pre-race article, I didn’t really expect him to win. I knew his luck was going to have change because, like Mark Martin in the early part of the season, it couldn’t get much worse. Denny definitely had a strong car and even though he did take out a couple of cars during the race because of a mistake in judgment, he deserved to win because he did have the fastest car.

Some would argue that Jimmy Johnson was the strongest car but he did struggle with mechanical problems. It is possible, if things would have worked out, he and Denny would have had to race against each other at the end of the race. As it was he and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, did a marvelous job of getting everything they could out of the race, even with all of their problems.

There are those that think that another rule change is needed. Now they think there should be a limit to the number of “Lucky Dog” advances for an individual during a race. I say leave it alone… This was one race and it was a big track. For the 48 team to have done the same thing they did here at a place like Martinsville would have been almost impossible. Everything just worked out for them at Pocono. Personally, I think this is why the 48 team has won three championships in a row. They handle adversity as well as they handle advantage and they very well could make it four in a row at Homestead in November.

See ya next time …


(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 5, 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View & Rusty Norman

Nascar at Pocono: A Fan’s View of Sunday’s Sunoco – Red Cross – Pennsylvania 500

Sunday’s race at Pocono could hold a few surprises. Tony Stewart will have to start in the back, just like last time, and will have his work cut out for himself if he wants to take home the trophy from the Pennsylvania 500 this weekend.

I don’t want to jump the gun on myself, but barring the unforeseen, Jimmy Johnson is going to be tough to beat this weekend. He has been fast since they unloaded off the truck and appeared to be ready to ride the momentum of last week’s victory at the Brickyard. With Stewart starting in the rear, that will be one less Johnson will have to pass and stay ahead of if all goes as I expect it will.

But wait a minute!!! This is Nascar! If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of being a Nascar fan, the race isn’t over until they throw the checkered flag or call the race because of rain.

I think there are several that could take the victory away from Jimmy Johnson and several of them are his own Hendrick teammates. When it comes right down to it, others are looking pretty stout this weekend and some are looking strong enough to win if things go well for them. I don’t think there’s anyone we can count out completely so let’s take a look at a few of the ones I think have a chance.

Well, as I said,  it’s just this fan’s view but this could be the week that the Fords break out of their slump. Or maybe it could be someone out of the Richard Childress garage like either Clint Bowyer or Kevin Harvick. Both of them ran good last week at Indy, especially Kevin Harvick finishing 6th. It could be the “times they are a changin'” for them.

Of course, being totally honest, we can’t rule out the Bush brothers representing the Penske Dodge and Gibbs Camry camps. How about Denny Hamlin, (also from Gibbs) getting back to the way he performed when he swept both races the first year he ran there. It would be awfully hard to rule him out because his luck absolutely has to change, at least from the kind he has had lately.

Since the field is lining up according to points, it adds a little more drama to the mix even though Tony Stewart does have to start in the back because of that tangle with the wall in the first lap of the first practice on Saturday. We have Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon starting on the front row and Kurt Bush and Carl Edwards Starting right behind them. Any way you look at it, that is four strong teams starting in front of all the rest. In fact, the top twelve is the twelve strongest cars in the Chase, at least for the moment and the rest are lining up in order of their points. If you don’t think any one of them could possibly win, I just don’t think you understand the situation.

I am here to tell you, it is going to be a shoot out and it is going to be decided by two things; track position and flawless pit strategy. I don’t want to make too big a deal of the possibilities but it just may not come down to the last lap. It could very well be decided by the one that is first out of the pits on the last pit stop and is the first one to get out in to the clean air.

In reality, this is a race that is going to be a bit of a drawn out affair because Pocono usually comes down to being a race like that. It is definitely one of the ones that can be sort of a sleeper in the middle. Now that I’ve said that, don’t fall asleep on the couch during the middle. If you do, I can guarantee you will miss something important.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I am pretty sure Jimmy Johnson is going to win this one. To add to the Hendrick domination, I think there will be four or five of the Hendrick cars in the top ten. I’m really going to stick my neck out and say Dale Jr is going to finish in the top six this weekend, (which will make the Jr nation extremely happy.)

But when it is all said and done, I know there will be some fans that will come away from this weekend satisfied that Nascar has done everything they possibly could to screw up the race again.

Me, well I’m just gonna watch and listen to the race and enjoy it, even if the guy I want to win doesn’t…

See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© August 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman