The Final Four Race For It All At Homestead from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The run for the 2019 MENCS Championship ends at Homestead this Sunday. If you ask the four drivers of the final four, they will tell you it has been a long, hard road but the end is in sight. As a fan, I can’t help but think the pressure is on whether they outwardly show it or not. One thing I know is it will be all business when the time comes to climb into the car and buckle in for the race to claim the 2019 Championship.

When it comes to the finale in NASCAR, it is different in several ways. For one, it is two races in one. First, it is a race to win the Ford Ecoboost 400. Second, it is a race between the four drivers in the Championship Four. The winner of the race can be someone other than those in the Championship four but the 2019 Championship will be claimed by the one of the final four that finishes ahead of the other three. Usually, the winner of both is one of the Championship Four.

During the race, the focus will mostly be on the Championship Four even if another competitor outside the four is leading and running away with the victory. Even though that sounds a bit unusual, hardly anyone really cares who wins unless it is one of those four competing for the Championship and, if it happens that someone outside the four wins, there will be two celebrations for the victors.

Well, don’t let that confuse you. The winner of the race often comes from those in the Championship Four and, more often than not, it takes a win to claim the Championship.

Even though there is a lot of hype surrounding this race, it will be serious business for the four drivers, crew chiefs and teams. Since weather cancelled qualifying, the Championship Four start in the first two rows and that may be a precursor to the way the race will go. Since these four drivers and teams start out front, it may mean things could get a little hairy from the get-go but, since they are considered to be the strongest teams going in, it just may be a battle between the four of them all through the 400 miles.

There are those that think Denny Hamlin has the advantage and momentum. That could be but I’m not so sure, at least from my view. You see, he has had a really good year but he also has a history of beating himself. It could be he has learned not to press until it is important to do so and I do believe he is older and wiser. His chances are good for taking the win and the Championship but I’m not willing to name him the victor yet.

One reason I’m not willing to name Denny as the favorite is Martin Truex Jr. He and his crew chief, Cole Pearn, have managed to shine, especially when it has counted in the recent past. After all, just look at the number of wins they have. Truex has seven and Denny has six this season. When all is said and done, the whole 400 miles could be between these two.

That brings me to Kyle Bush. Of the three JGR teams, he has been the one struggling in the latter part of the season. Now, I’m not saying struggling in the sense he hasn’t or won’t be a factor. I’m just saying he has struggled and it could go either way for him in the Ford Ecoboost 400. From my view, he may have turned the corner at just the right time. I guess that remains to be seen.

When it comes to Kevin Harvick, I think it he has the biggest struggle since it is one SHR team against three JGR teams. A few weeks ago, his number four team hit on something and it remains to be seen if it carries through to this Championship race at Homestead. In observing some of the goings on this week leading up to the race, He has looked confident and calm. From my view, he is probably the most mentally tough and confident of the four competitors. Unless something really out of the ordinary happens during the race like an equipment failure or getting involved in someone else’s accident, I do think he is up to the challenge of the JGR team cars he faces.

So, I’ll make this short and to the point. No matter how it actually goes, I think Kevin Harvick is going to end up taking his second MENCS Championship over the other three from JGR. If he does, just remember I told you he was going to do it. If he doesn’t then you can tell me how wrong I was and we’ll all move on to next year with hopes for more exciting racing and the hope the Chevys finally become competitive again…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 16, 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

Making It Or Breaking It At Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s just no two ways about it. Four drivers won’t make it to Homestead in the final four competing for the MENCS Championship for 2019. Two are already qualified for the finale and we already know what their names are. It is the other two names that remain in limbo until this one race at Phoenix is finished and in the books. When that happens, we will either have recognized our expected choices as winners or also rans or be completely amazed at how wrong we could be.

I don’t know about you, but it is another time in this year’s playoffs where anything could happen this weekend. I mean, if you just look at what has happened to several of the drivers over last few races, you’ll see overwhelming evidence that no one except Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are guaranteed a spot at Homestead. No matter what some say about Kyle Bush or Joey Logano and them moving on to the Championship race, there is still no guarantee.

Speaking of Kyle Bush, does anyone think he hasn’t been struggling at least slightly for a while now. Oh sure, he’s still “sort of” maintained his points position except for being passed by the two winners over the last two weeks. If you listen to him, the race Sunday is between him and Logano when it comes to moving on to the final four. He makes no mention of the other drivers below the cut line and it appears he expects to win at Phoenix. That could very well be the way it turns out.

Joey Logano, on the other hand, doesn’t sound all that confident even though he had a very good week last weekend. Listening to him in interviews over this last week he has had a guarded optimism about them. He doesn’t seem to be overly confident of how he will finish but does have at least a little “hope” in his voice. From this fan’s view, I think he is concerned about another disaster striking and taking him out of contention all together.

Personally, I don’t know what to think of these two. I know they don’t really care what I think and you probably don’t either but I have to say this. I’m am not totally convinced that either one, or both, of them will move on to the final four.

Why would I say such a thing? Well… just look at what has happened to Chase Elliott over the last few weeks. He has gone from a favored one to move on to one that has to win to make it to Homestead as a one of the four competing for the Championship. There was the equipment failures of two blown engines and a broken axle, (quite unusual for a Hendrick racing team.) Last week he just made a driver error that put him way out of touch with the cut line and made this weekend a must win to get in.

Denny Hamlin looked to be a lock for the final four and he has managed to drop below the cutline. That was completely unexpected by most and now he probably needs to win if he expects to make it to the final four. We all know he is quite capable but there is still the question of, will he? Could something happen to put him completely out of the running? Could he score a lot of points in the stages and still be outpointed by Bush and Logano? These are all questions that won’t be answered until the race is run and done.

And then there’s Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. Both not totally out but by no means in. Both still have a chance to make it to Homestead and in the hunt but a lot of positive things have to happen for them. They both have to run up front and score lot of points while the ones above them have to have really bad races and lose a lot of points. In reality, they both need to win but you and I both know only one of them can so guess what that means? Yeah, that’s right; both of them can’t win so there just about has to be a complete and total failure (in other words, finishing last) for Kyle Bush and Joey Logano. Oh, and by the way, Denny Hamlin would have to be right there with them in those last places.

Does it sound like this weekend is going to be full of excitement, drama and emotion? Does it also sound like the pressure is on all six of those not qualified for the final four? I would say a very resounding, YES! to all of those questions, how about you?

I expect this to be one of the most aggressive and action-packed races of the year and especially in these 2019 playoffs. As I said at the opening of this, four drivers and teams won’t make it to the final four. Two are in and six want to make it in. Of the six wanting to make it in, only two will and which two remains to be seen. A winner from below the cut line changes everything and, since troubles have been abundant for many of the contenders, a bad day by any one or more of the six can do the same.

I don’t know what you think, but this fan thinks this is going to be a race to remember for a long time…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 9, 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

All Out Going For It At Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s no doubt the emotions will rise to a peak at Martinsville on Sunday afternoon. There’s just no way they can’t. We’re talking about short track racing on a half mile oval with a lot on the line for eight drivers and teams as well as all the rest that want to win the coveted Grandfather Clock. Just which of the drivers might come out on top remains to be seen but from this fan’s view, it should prove to be a very interesting afternoon.

In my opinion, I expect just about the whole field to be “all out going for it” when it comes to competing for the win, but eight of them are more interested than the rest simply because a win by one of them means moving on to Homestead to the final four.

I know you’ve heard all of the talk about which ones have already been chosen to be in the final four, but I’m just not as sure as some about that. With the way things have gone so far in the playoffs, I’m still one of those that believes anything can happen. When I look at the round of eight, I only see one driver that hasn’t really struggled much at all. Of course that would be Denny Hamlin.

I admit, he has been much more confident and less bothered by things that used to bring about his demise in previous years. If his performance continues as it has lately, I think he might be the only one of the eight to make it to the final four. Of course that could change over the next three weeks, but I don’t see it unless his course totally reverses itself.

The next one on my list of “probable’s” to make it to the final four is Martin Truex Jr. It is hard to argue with his consistency lately and it is hard to argue with his performance on the tracks over the next three weeks. He almost won Martinsville last year at this time (Joey Logano put an end to that) and he is as determined as ever to go all out for it again this year. And don’t depend on him letting Logano or anyone else repeat what happened last year if the opportunity arises. He is more likely to be the one dishing it out this time.

After those two, (and I’m really not so sure both of them will move on), is where it really gets interesting, at least in my mind. What I’m saying is, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and, yes, even Kyle Bush could end up as “no shows” in the final four at Homestead.

(I know, you think I left someone out, don’t you? Believe me, I haven’t forgotten Chase Elliott and I will talk about him a little later.)

The five I mentioned above have had their ups and downs over the last several weeks and unfortunately, I’m not so sure any of them will make it to the final four unless they win one of the next three races. They just haven’t shown themselves to be that much better than those they are competing against. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying they won’t make it. I’m just saying they and their teams have to be just about flawless over the next three races, they have to get as many points as they can and they need to finish near the front. Two of them are only in the round of eight because they won a race in the round of twelve and that would be Larson and Blaney. One of them, Logano, has struggled to be where he is and, even though Martinsville is one of his better tracks, I see no guarantee he won’t struggle at one or two of the next three tracks. (If he is in front of Martin Truex Jr. as they approach the final lap or two, well, let’s just say “anything can happen.”

Kevin Harvick may not do well at Martinsville but he does tend to perform well at Texas and Phoenix so he could gain a lot of points at the latter two even if he doesn’t win one of them. To me, he and Logano are the two biggest question marks in my mind over the next three races. Both of them could advance to the final four or one or both of them could miss it altogether. I’m just not sure about them at this point but I do know time will reveal it to us over the next three weekends.

When it comes to Kyle Bush, I’m just not sure how he will do. Over the last several races, he has looked good and bad but relatively consistent. He has been known to have good and bad races at Martinsville, as well as the other two that follow. I’m not sure what it is but something just isn’t there for him lately. Of course, that could change on a dime but it is another thing we’ll just have to wait and see on.

Chase Elliott needs to win. That’s just the way it looks from this fan’s view. He doesn’t necessarily have to win at Martinsville, but he needs to win at one of these next three tracks. Starting out in the first practice at Martinsville with a blown engine after only five or six laps isn’t starting off the weekend with a bang. He and his team need to be flawless from this point on if he wants to make it to the final four. After that, well, I guess he could win his first MENCS Championship. What ever the case, over the next three weekends of racing, the eight in the playoffs are going to be “all out going for it” at Martinsville, Texas AND Phoenix and it’s gong to be an intense three weekends…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 26, 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 Round Of Twelve Opens At The Monster from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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What better place for the round of twelve to open than at the Monster Mile. This weekend the MENCS teams will be running the package with the most downforce and the most horsepower that NASCAR allows this year. The Monster is fast… Very fast!

There isn’t a lot that can be said that hasn’t already been said about the Monster. Everyone already knows pretty much all there is to know about it. The only difference about this weekend compared to the race back in May is that this one is the first race in the round of twelve in the playoffs. The only questions to be answered are whether the results will be different than they were back in the Spring.

From this fan’s view, things could be a lot different. Martin Truex Jr. dominated and won the May race. Way back then, the Toyotas ruled, the Fords were running “good” and the Chevys were still pretty much struggling. This weekend things haven’t changed all that much but the Chevys are looking much more competitive. Chase Elliott won this race last fall and the Chevys have shown up this weekend looking quite a bit more ready to run up front.

After last weekend at The Roval, the Hendrick Chevys are looking to carry their performance level into Sunday’s race and it does appear they have a little bit of momentum going for them. Kyle Larson from the Ganassi camp also looks to have something for the Toyotas and Fords.

Now that I’ve mentioned last weekend, I can’t help but say something about Chase Elliott’s win at The Roval. Yeah, I know you’ve heard just about all you want to about last weekend, but I just have to give my two cents. You already know I’m a big Chevy fan and also a Hendrick MotorSports fan. It also holds true I am a big Chase Elliott fan. After he over-drove the restart right into the barrier at the first turn, I figured he was done. I had no idea he would come back from that setback and win. It was truly an unexpected victory even though the Hendrick Chevys have shown a lot of strength at the Road courses.

I have to say I had pretty much counted Alex Bowman out after his first lap happenings, also. As the laps wound down to the final few, I was as surprised as anyone he would finish second and was coming close to challenging Elliott for the win. It was a really strong performance for the HMS teams as they all finished in the top ten.

Oh well, that’s enough of last week for now…

I’ve already mentioned Kyle Larson and this fan thinks he could take his CGR Chevy to Victory Lane. He’s already shown he has speed this weekend; it just remains to be seen how he runs all the way to the end. Lately, that’s been their problem… getting to the end at, or near, the front.

From this fan’s view, Jimmie Johnson just can’t be counted out as a possible winner on Sunday since already has so many wins at the Monster. Sure, I know it’s been a while since he’s won at the Monster (or at all), but he still knows what it takes to win there. I’m not saying he will but I do think it’s possible. It all depends on whether the Chevys show their speed in the race instead of in practice and qualifying.

Of course, we all know the JGR Toyotas have to be considered as having a really good day at the Monster; In particular, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin. In the Spring, Martin Truex Jr dominated and won and he has been showing a lot of strength over the last several races. He didn’t perform so well at the Roval but he just can’t be ruled out as having the same kind of day he had in the Spring. I don’t know that he will dominate as he did but I am sure he will be someone to watch on Sunday.

A quick look at those that could possibly win on Sunday shows just about any of the ones still in the playoffs could. They’re not the only ones, though. There are several not in, but still running to win, that could. It is very hard to pick just one. It could be Chase Elliott, since he won last year. It could be Alex Bowman if he runs like he did last week (and as long as Bubba doesn’t decide to help him not make a turn as a little payback from the Roval.) It could be Kevin Harvick. We haven’t heard much from him lately but he still runs well. The possibilities are endless for this one.

Say… you don’t think the JGR teams have picked a bad time to go into a little slump, do you? I guess it is a possibility. I mean, they just haven’t looked like they did when they were winning all of those races this season. Well, that is, if we don’t look at Martin Truex Jr and the way he’s been running…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 5, 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

Four Are Gone When The Roval Is Done from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There is one thing that is certain for the race this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. when this race is done there will be four less drivers and teams competing for the MENCS Championship. Without a doubt that is one of the only definites this fan can see but, which ones won’t move on to the round of twelve is beyond me at the time of this writing. We all know the ones that are locked in to moving on but there are those from about ninth to fifteenth that really need a good finish when the Roval is done. As for Erik Jones in sixteenth, well, he needs to win to be sure he can make it.

The Roval is a unique road course track and just about anything can happen. Honestly, from my view, just about anything we can think of probably will happen before this one is in the books. This is the second time the MENCS teams have visited the Roval and, if you remember last year’s race, a lot of unexpected things happened. I expect the same or even more this time.

The bubble drivers – those from ninth to fifteenth – are only separated by fourteen points and if any of them run into problems their run in the playoffs is through for this 2019 season. You already know the ones in the most precarious situations are, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Bush and Erik Jones because they are already below the cutline. Those that can’t afford any problems (at least from this fan’s view) are William Byron and Aric Almirola since they are only above the cut by two to three points.

Of course, as you already know, William Byron won the pole position and has looked to have speed since they unloaded off the truck, along with his teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson. Bowman sits in thirteenth place in the standings just two points behind Byron which could make for some very interesting drama as the race progresses to its completion.

Chase Elliott is reasonably safe sitting in seventh place with +37 points but he cannot afford to have a bad day and, if he has a DNF, his chances would be done for the playoffs and advancing to the final four. It is worth noting that many have already written off the Chevys making it to the round of eight let alone the final four. From this fan’s view, Chase looked to be struggling a bit in practice and even struggled in qualifying. I’m not ruling him out yet, as far as having another good road course run, but he does have his work cut out for himself.

In observing the Hendrick Chevys so far this weekend, they do look to have the speed and have proved it by three of them starting in the front two rows. My concern is what has plagued them most of the season and that is maintaining that speed all the way to the finish. Practice times and qualifying are one thing but it doesn’t say much about how they will fare on restarts, in traffic and all the way to the finish.

I will say this though; Jimmie Johnson could win this one. That would be a big deal for him if for no other reason than he hasn’t had a win in a long time. If he does win that would make it all the more difficult for Erik Jones to advance to the next round unless he scores a lot of stage points and finishes very near the front.

Although there is a lot going on throughout the playoff contenders, one that has me concerned is Kyle Bush. Don’t know what’s going on with him but he just hasn’t looked all that good recently and hasn’t been handling what “the racing gods” have been handing him lately. It was even obvious during practice that he may not deal with slower cars all that well like in recent races. I’m not saying anything negative but, his aggressiveness could come back to haunt him and take him right out of the hunt for a Championship. The JGR Toyotas are strong but the stress of the playoffs could be the undoing for a couple of them. (Oh, in case you’re wondering, Denny Hamlin is the other one. Not saying things will go wrong. Just saying they could.)

In observing the first practice and qualifying, it certainly appeared to this fan that many were struggling with wheel hop and that could prove to be a disaster for, not only the ones experiencing it, but for those that might get taken out along with them. If it happens to take someone out that needs a good finish, well, we all know what that will mean and that is one thing that will make this race at the Roval a bigger wild card than Talladega. But then, this is a cutoff race and it is at one of the most challenging tracks in the playoffs.

This fan expects there could be more than the usual drama and emotion throughout this one and some of it may play out on the track… Hey, I’m just saying it is going to be intense and You and I both know what that can mean…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 28, 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 Pressure Is On For Some At Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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For some, the pressure is on to gain a lot of points or win when they take to the track at Richmond Raceway Saturday night. For others, well… they really need to at least be consistent and hope they don’t have the same troubles a few experienced at Vegas last weekend. Of course we all know Martin Truex Jr. could finish dead last at Richmond and not have to worry about moving on to the next round of the playoffs at all.

I don’t know what you think about it but, there is something about those Joe Gibbs Toyotas and I’m not sure we’ve seen all they have to offer yet. I mean, I think they’ve been holding back on some of their performance over the last part of the regular season and saving the best for these playoffs. It seems they have a little bit more speed available than the other teams and that’s not to say they haven’t been strong all year. After all, the JGR teams have won many of the races this season and the only hope for many of the others involved in the playoffs is for their performance to fall off big time.

Of course, I could be wrong and things could turn around as fast as they did for Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Kyle Bush. For some reason Hamlin’s performance dropped off all the sudden and he finished fifteenth even though he was moving up in the order when the change happened. Erik Jones had good speed but ran into equipment problems like a sticking throttle and then a transmission stuck in second gear. But for Martin Truex Jr, well, he was a whole different story.

Yeah, that’s right; He was dropping like a rock through the field and then, after some adjustments, he started making his way to the front and that’s exactly where he ended up. Amazing how that happens. Just a few minor adjustments and, all of the sudden he is better than anyone on the track. Did you ever wonder what it is about his crew chief and what he knows about these packages the others don’t? Well… I have to admit I do and he seems to pull it off more often than not.

Oh, and then there was Kyle Bush and his run-in with the wall in the first laps of the race that put him down two laps. He did recover but I have more to say about him before I’m finished here.

Joey Logano his Penske Ford appeared to be the class of the field until Daniel Suarez forced him into the wall. After that, he really wasn’t competing for the win anymore. He was just going for as many points as he could get.

Speaking of Daniel Suarez; he just doesn’t seem to want to let anyone hold him back or pass him. I admit he is aggressive but I think his aggressiveness is going to come back to haunt him in the near and distant future. It appears to this fan he is still driving like he has a chance to be in the playoffs and win the championship. Of course, we all know “that just ain’t gonna happen.” He may be racing to keep his job or improve his end of the season standings but, he just can’t do better than being out of the playoffs allow.

Now, getting back to Kyle Bush (and this is just this fan’s opinion and will likely make some a little angry.) I do admit he is a very talented driver and is definitely going to one day be in the hall of fame. The problem is he is only happy when he wins and he often blames his lack of performance on the package NASCAR mandates the Cup teams to use. This year he has often talked of how hard it is to pass, (because of the mandated package), how hard it is to get the balance right, (because of the mandated package), how he could have run better, (also because of the mandated package.)

Last weekend at Vegas he did come up with a new one though, at least different from blaming the mandated package. This time he blamed slower cars and unproven drivers, insinuating they shouldn’t even be on the track. Did he forget that he drove himself into the wall and put himself down two laps (which he made up through strategy calls?) Either through miscommunication or bad info from the spotters he ran into the back of a slower car and went from about third place to finishing nineteenth.

I understand his frustration but I also see his history repeating itself. I don’t know; it could have to do with him being concerned of not being able to make it to the Championship round in nine weeks if his performance doesn’t improve. It could be for a number of reasons, I guess. All I know is that, in this fan’s opinion, hardly anything, including bad finishes, is his fault. He seems to for get that others, including his teammates, are constantly doing what he complains is hard to do with this package and they have had to deal with slower cars and less proven drivers the same as him. I mean, come on. There has to be a time when even a talented driver like him has to come to grips with the fact he isn’t without fault, accept his shortcomings, work to improve them and move on to even more accomplishments.

For the others at or near the cut line, the pressure is on to get points or win if they want to stay in the playoffs. The Roval is coming next weekend and, depending on how things turn out for them at Richmond, next weekend can be even more pressure packed…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 21, 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 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

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

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

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