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Hi, everybody…and welcome to Just A Fan’s View this week…
Some may call me strange and out of touch, but, I love restrictor plate racing. That puts me in an interesting position when it comes to a sport encompassing going fast and turning left. Many people think restrictor plates take the “race” out of “racing”. I say it just makes it more of a mental exercise than a physical one when it comes to these kind of tracks. Besides, if you don’t believe me, ask the drivers if they are more physically or mentally fatigued after Talladega. My money says they’ll tell you the latter and have no hesitation in doing so.
Now, please, don’t think I “love” it more than I do other Nascar races but I do have a fondness for what it makes happen. It makes a race interesting when it could have become very boring over the course of nearly 500 miles, especially if two or three cars lap the field one or more times because they are that dominant over the competition, (and believe me, I remember some of those.) I also like it because it makes for close racing, (even though I know it is much more stressful for the drivers and more of a chess match than some of the the other races are.)
I like the fact that, for much of the race, the field is jumbled up, running flat out at near 200 miles per hour and racing for the last ten laps to really make a move. As fans, we never really know what someone actually has left to put on the table until near the end of the race. Sure, there will be some muscle flexing at intervals during the race, but personally, I think that is more of the mental part of the race, where different drivers try to psyche out their opponents to get them to make early mistakes and take themselves out of contention.
If I may take a slight journey into my past, I remember some of the races from our local track on Saturday night. There were times when all of the cars in our class were lined up just right so that no one could pass and the pack stayed together as they were lined up for many laps. That’s probably the closest I can come to relating to the way restrictor plate races go. It didn’t matter if you had the fastest car, it just depended on whether or not you could find an opening and break free of the rest. Some of those races, (and I don’t mean to say they happened often), were some of the most memorable races I remember driving in. They were exciting and even a bit nerve wracking and … I enjoyed every second of driving in them.
So what does my racing short tracks nose to tail with 12-15 others have to do with racing at Talladega, Alabama? Not a whole lot really, but it was different for us at our track and that is why I think I like restrictor plate racing so much… the race is never really over until it’s over.
I won’t even begin to talk about lap times this week. In fact, we can pretty much throw out all of the qualifying and much of the practice. They won’t mean a whole lot when the green flag drops. What will be important is the way the possible winners handle in traffic at close range, nose to tail and door handle to door handle.
The second most important thing will be pit stops and whether they come under green or not. I think it is pretty obvious that pit stops have become more important with the “COT” than they ever were with the old “twisted sister”, but at Talladega, it is about who gets the front spot at the right time and holds off the rest of the field until they pass under the checkered flag.
So who do I think will win this weekend?? I have a few favorites but no real “definites” and I think this is one race that is going to be hard to call.
If I have to put it in writing, I guess I’ll have to mention a few names like, Carl Edwards, Dale Jr, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon. And then there’s Kyle Bush, Kurt Bush, David Reutimann, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Denny Hamlin. If you want to be real about the possibilities you can throw in a number of dark horses and that will show just how the end of the race is going to look. It will be a bunch of cars running up to three wide, pushing and shoving for all they’re worth to get to the checkered flag before the rest of the cars around them.
This week, I’m gonna go out on a limb and pick a familiar name. I have no idea who is going to win the chess match, but I’m going to pick Dale Earnhardt Jr. I know the odds are against it, but I do think this is one of his best chances to win because of his previous success at restrictor plate racing. I don’t expect it to be a run away by any means and I think Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are going to be right there along with Jeff Gordon, Kyle Bush and Jimmy Johnson, thousandths of a second apart, making sure he has to work for every inch it takes to go to victory lane at Talladega this Sunday afternoon.
Well, now I’ve put my choice out there and, I wonder…who do you think is going to win??
See ya next time…
© April 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman