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NASCAR at Texas from Just A Fans View

Rusty NormanAh-h-h-h, Texas… Not only is it a big state but it is a big race, at least for some that need to have a good finish and it is a Saturday night race, which in this fan’s opinion, just might make it even better. The first thing many think of when they think of Texas Motor Speedway is how fast the cars enter the turns (probably over 200 mph) and how poor the grip is once they get into them. I’ve heard over and over again how the crew chiefs tell the drivers this week, “Trust me, it will stick when you throw it in there…”

Every track has it’s own character and the Texas track definitely shows it has one of its own. The surface is showing its age which is obvious by how the teams are struggling to find grip for the back tires of their cars and, with the closeness of the competition in this 2011 season, they’re going to need all they can find.

It is fairly obvious to this fan (and many others, I’m sure), the Fords looked mighty tough in the final practice and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the possibility David Ragan has along with his team-mate, Carl Edwards. In fact one could even include Matt Kenseth with them. The two have qualified one-two on the front row for the Cup race tonight and Edwards won the Nationwide race last night. Even though it appears the Fords have an advantage, the other manufacturers will definitely make a statement after the sun sets tonight and the race winds down to its final laps. (At least, the Chevys did last week…)

So that brings us to what could really happen this evening at the Texas track. From this fan’s view, I think it’s going to be either a walkaway for someone, or a first win for someone like a David Ragan or even Marcos Ambrose. Does that mean I expect it, not necessarily, but it does mean it is a strong possibility and it could happen. But I thought the Chevys were going to struggle last weekend the way qualifying and practice went for them and I was dead wrong.

Of course, one has to wonder how the JGR camp will do tonight. If anyone has anything to prove and also needs a good finish, it would be them. Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano definitely are frustrated with their performance so far this year and, though they have run strong at times during past races, they just haven’t been around at the end. Kyle Bush has led the most laps over the last two weekends and has not been able to finish off his competitors when it came time to take the checkered flag. Interestingly enough, though, he has taken the losses quite in stride and is #1 in points at the moment.

From my view, the Hendrick Chevys were struggling to find balance and speed on the Texas track and only Jimmie Johnson qualified in the top ten. Thinking back to Martinsville last week though, they were struggling up to race day also and then made a strong showing for most of the afternoon.

It was basically similar in the RCR camp, too. Clint Bowyer looked strong at Martinsville but faded in the final laps. This week, he looks strong and qualified third, but one has to wonder if he will fade at the end again and whether Kevin Harvick will just lead the last couple of laps as he has the past couple of weeks.

Texas is a tough track and the practices were not at all near the time and temperature conditions they will be racing against tonight.

From this fan’s view, I think this is one of the most unpredictable races of the year. If qualifying says anything to me about this weekend, it says the cars were faster when the track was cooler, but also, the ones that were fast when the track was warmer, were faster when it cooled down. It’s all about balance and getting all the grip you can get and the one that finds the most could walk away with the win. It doesn’t look the tires will be an issue tonight, but the track will definitely be changing throughout the night. And then there’s pit stops and track position.

And then… there’s that thing called fuel mileage.

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© April 9, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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NASCAR at Fontana from Just A Fan’s View

Rusty NormanIf you only looked at the qualifying times and the way the cars will line up on Sunday afternoon at Fontana, you would see some different names at the top of the order and a lot of well known big names in the middle to the back of the field. Now as surprising as this will sound, this is one of the times the qualifying will be totally useless except for having a better pit stall than someone else. The reason, as this fan sees it, is because of the rains that fell in California on Friday, before the practice and qualifying sessions.

You can tell by the looks of the lineup some teams hit it and some didn’t. That’s not to say the ones that qualified faster than the better known names don’t deserve to be where they are, I just raise the question of whether or not it will make a great deal of difference on Sunday.

Just look at where two of the top three finishers from last week’s race qualified. Carl Edwards finished second last weekend and qualified eighteenth this weekend. Jimmie Johnson finished third last weekend and qualified sixteenth for Fontana. Of course last week’s winner, Kyle Bush, qualified eighth but he would say qualifying is just something they have to do and not to pay much attention to it, (and you already know what I think of qualifying.)

Looking at the speeds after the final practice session on Saturday it should be a little easier to tell a little more about how the competition will fair on Sunday, but the way the season has been going, I’m not so sure that will be the case.

While we’re talking about qualifying, I guess now is a good time to mention how NASCAR’s change to how qualifying order is established. From this fan’s view, the new way of setting that order and it does make the teams try to get better established times during practice. Usually qualifying later in the session is the best time to try and get a faster time. Although that isn’t always the case, it has proven to be one of the better rule or procedural changes and makes qualifying much more interesting. I wasn’t sure about it when they first mentioned it but now, I like it. Say what you will, but NASCAR has been making a lot of good decisions over the last couple of years and it has been a definite plus for the competitive side.

Since this is the fifth week of racing for 2011, that means that next week the field will be set a bit differently than it is during these first five weeks. For those that end up no longer in the top 35 after this weekend, they will have to qualify on time for the most part. For some, that will something they haven’t had to do in a while. There is no one in jeopardy of having to do that right at the moment, but all it takes is one more bad race and some of those on the edge will be in that predicament. Some that are close to the edge are, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano who are 29th and 30th in the points.

As I have observed the different drivers and teams this weekend, it does appear several are struggling with their setups and although it doesn’t appear they will do well, they will very likely find a way to get up towards the front. Although I don’t know who might win, it is definitely another one of those weekends where one or more of the teams may hit on the right combination and just have to tweak on the car slightly to keep up with the changing track condition. From this fan’s view, I really think the winner will come from the top fifteen from the final practice; (Wow, I’m really sticking my neck out there, huh?) If you want me to be a bit more specific, this could actually be the week we see someone in Victory Lane that has never actually been there before in Cup.

Even though I don’t really want to outright pick a possible winner, I do have a few choices as to who might win. I wouldn’t count out Dale Jr although he was only about 18th in the late practice. Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Kyle Bush were all fast in that practice also, but, there was a lot of slippin’ and slidin’ goin’ on and a lot of drivers unhappy with their cars after practice was over.

Adding to all of the uneasiness, there is an interesting side note to overnight weather possibly dumping a half inch of rain or more and washing away all of the rubber from the track for the start of the race tomorrow. One thing is for certain; this has been a very interesting weekend for the teams and it looks as though the challenges aren’t going to let up until the end of the race.

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 26, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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NASCAR Short Trackin’ at Bristol

Rusty NormanIt’s high-banked, a little over a half mile around and gets more emotions going than a cross-town rivalry. Oh, and one other thing — it’s fast! But, you already knew that about Bristol. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything NASCAR fans don’t know about the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” but there are a lot of unknowns about the race that will take place on Sunday afternoon.

The most important thing to remember about qualifying is the way the faster teams get to choose their pit stalls. Of course the way the track and pits are configured, pit stall choice is one of the more important details the teams will face if they expect to have a chance at having a good day on Sunday afternoon for 500 laps on the tough short track at Thunder Valley.

Of course, the way the trips to the pits during the race take place will make a big difference, too. If a stop takes place during green flag laps, it could mean finishing one or more laps down. During yellow is much more preferable, but the way the teams perform the stops will still make a big difference in how the teams maintain track position, (and track position is much more important at Bristol than some would lead you to believe.)

If you listen to the drivers talking to the crews and they are gaining spots on the track and losing them in the pits, you can bet the pit crews are going to be getting an ear-full, if for no other reason than the driver is frustrated, (and driver frustration is going to be noticeable all day no matter what at Bristol (it’s just the nature of the beast.)

So, does that mean anything at all about who will take the checkered flag? You can bet on it. Short track racing is high emotion and tense racing and a driver can only take so much of both simply because of the adrenaline flowing through his veins. And then there’s the closeness of the racing and the tendency they all have to lean on each other, which sometimes results in “paybacks.”

The first right side tire Goodyear brought for this race just didn’t work out the way they hoped and even though the teams did have a chance to put on the second choice in the second practice on Saturday, the jury is still out on how it will affect the final results when the checkered flag falls. Since the teams only had one set of tires to figure out how to make the second choice right side tire work, this fan isn’t so sure they will know a whole lot how it may do over the course of the whole race until they actually log the laps on Sunday.

In fact, (also in this fan’s opinion), I think this will prove to even up the field slightly and some that were running slower and further back in lap times will be more competitive. I know these are teams that have a lot of engineering input; but, I am of the opinion this is going to prove a challenge to them all. In other words, some will hit it and some won’t when it comes to changing the setup. From this fan’s view, my greatest concern from observing the last practice session, Saturday, is that we could see some problems with the right fronts on Sunday. I’m sure that may be a little bit of an over-reaction, but if it does come to pass, just remember I mentioned it.

It is firmly this fan’s opinion, this could prove to be one of the most interesting races at Bristol in a while. It is possible that everything will just go along as it would have originally, but I think it is going to be more of a challenge for all of the teams especially at a track where things happen in a hurry and it only takes an extended wiggle to go a lap down and have a good day turn into a bad one. (And then there’s that threat of rain to add intensity to the strategy for the race.)

Even though the Fords looked to be the fastest during the first part of the weekend, it remains to be seen if they make the transition to the different tire and remain as fast as they were up through qualifying. Carl Edwards has definitely been hot in the first part of the year just picking up from where he was at the end of last season. It is possible he could continue doing the same, but it is also possible he will struggle a bit, starting this weekend. I’m not trying to jinx him but he wouldn’t be the first one to have three good races at the beginning of the season and then struggle for several races during the spring.

With the change of the right side tire happening as it did, I can’t say who might win this weekend. It could be someone totally unexpected or it could be someone that hasn’t won in a while. Several names come to mind as possible winners for Sunday’s race. I’m not sure, but I think the Chevy’s are going to be much more competitive than they might have appeared before the tire change. Montoya looked strong and so did Mark Martin.

From this fan’s view, it looks as though Sunday’s race is anybody’s guess. In the last practice, the Fords weren’t even shown in the top ten for speed, but one has to wonder, were the higher speeds run on the old tire, or the replacement. It did look like Matt Kenseth was one of the better Fords in the late practice, but I’m not sure, he and the rest of the Fords just may show up at the front during Sunday’s race and all of this conjecture will be wasted.

Personally, I like the fact that we enter into race-day with all those unknowns I mentioned at the beginning. It just seems to set the stage for a great afternoon of racing and the drama that goes along with the unknown. I do expect the cream to rise to the top by the end of the afternoon and that means those that have proven they can overcome adversity with regularity will be running in the top five when the checkered flag falls. So hold on and get ready for the possibility of some whining to start, if… (and that’s a big if)… Jimmie Johnson ends up in Victory Lane. I’m sure NASCAR will be blamed for having Goodyear change the tire so he could win and move that much closer to going for number six in a row… (well… maybe not; the way people are talking, the winner will probably be Kyle Bush.)

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 19, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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Vegas 2011 After Thoughts from Just A Fan’s View

I’m not sure how you saw it but it looked like it was going to be another one of those days where the least likely make would end up taking the checkered flag, (and show us all just how little we know about how races are going to end.) I mean, if you look at the way the practices went before the actual race on Sunday, you would have never thought a Chevy would have lead the most laps. In fact, I would venture to say, you would have never thought they would lead any laps after the way they performed during the practice and qualifying sessions.

Instead… it looks like the Fords finally made it to the end of a race and ended up in Victory Lane on the same day (at least since Trevor Bayne and the Daytona 500). It really wasn’t a surprise to anyone as all the commentators, pundits and just about everyone, (including me), analyzed how the race would go judging from the practice and qualifying sessions before Sunday. I know I was swayed by how strong the Fords appeared and how the other teams seemed to be struggling, but Sunday proved to be different and Tony Stewart threw a wrench in the works until a late race mistake on pit road and a pit strategy to make up for that mistake that turned against him afterwards.

Even though Tony Stewart led the most laps, that hooked air hose and the decision to take two tires on the next to last last pit stop, cost him the victory and left him with a disappointing second place, even though he appeared to have the car to beat much of the afternoon. Needless to say, he was not at all happy after the race but did manage a pained interview immediately after the race and in the press center also.

Matt Kenseth on the other hand was fast in all the practice sessions and qualified on pole, (but as we mentioned in our article on Saturday before the race, Sunday doesn’t always go like the rest of the weekend), and he had a tire go down early in the race and ended up spending the most of the afternoon trying to get back onto the lead lap. He did manage to get back on the lead lap when Jeff Gordon’s right front went down and ended up with an eleventh place finish on the day.

Jeff smacked the wall hard, ending his day and leaving him on the trailer with a thirty-sixth place finish and very few points to go with it, kind of canceling out what he accomplished in Phoenix.

A quick look at the finishing order shows the times the teams spent on the track leading up to the race were just a bit deceptive. Just look at the difference between the way teams qualified and the way they finished; (to simplify things, I’ll just look at the top twelve qualifiers. I’m sure you know where to find them and the rest.) And remember, Fords filled up the first two rows…

Yes, it’s true… Fords did fill up the front two rows and Toyotas filled up the third row. In the next three rows there was one more Ford, one Toyota and four Chevys. Adding them all up tells us there were five Fords starting up front, four Chevys and three Toyotas. It makes it pretty obvious why many thought the Fords were going to do well on Sunday. As we found out, a Ford did actually win but the Chevys and Toyotas did much better than expected.

Honestly, I don’t feel bad about being wrong abut the strength of the Fords at Vegas and I hate to say it, but, it did look like a Chevy was going to take the win, possibly even finish one-two and have several more in the top twelve. It just goes to show what this fan has said many times; you can’t tell a whole lot from practice and qualifying, especially these days when NASCAR doesn’t have testing at the tracks they race at. That could mean some teams are spending some of their time at the tracks testing for the race and for the future.

NASCAR’s decision to change the points system has made the first three races of the 2011 season very interesting. If things continue to go as they have, we could see a whole new drama emerging from the way qualifying figures into future races. We just have two more races until the top thirty-five are no longer locked in from last year. Now, I know many of the teams are saying they’re not in panic mode yet, but some of the better known names from the past couple of years may have to actually qualify on time unless their luck gets better soon.

It appears to this fan, it is harder to make up the points lost in those bad finishes than it was in the past, even though early in the season points do shuffle around much faster than they do later in the season. I’m not really trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but, it should really prove to be interesting in the coming weeks for all of those that have been having some really bad races. Hey… I’m just sayin’, if some of them don’t start finishing more consistently toward the front, it could prove to be a very tense time for them.

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 11, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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NASCAR at Vegas from Just Fan’s View

Rusty NormanThis weekend in Las Vegas is going to be interesting to say the least; that is, if practice and qualifying reflect anything at all about how the race will go. The Fords are looking just as strong as they did last weekend in Phoenix and, from this fan’s view, I reckon it remains to be seen if they perform at the level they practiced and qualified at, (unlike what happened at Phoenix.)

It’s not that just the Roush Fords look strong, but, all of the Fords look like they have a few more horses hooked up to the track and could make the day miserable for the Chevys and Toyotas, (and, of course, those Penske Dodges, too.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not willing to put all of my cards on the table yet, but I do agree with many others, the Fords are going to be hard to beat unless something unexpected happens to them along the way. But wait a minute, didn’t many think exactly that way last week and isn’t this still NASCAR? Oh and an additional thought about that NASCAR thing; haven’t we been conditioned to expect the unexpected? (Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say.)

How about Marcos Ambrose qualifying outside pole next to Matt Kenseth? Has anyone wondered about the Richard Petty Motorsports teams besides me? They are looking better every weekend and I still think either Marcos or AJ will end up in Victory Lane sometime this season (or maybe both will and just maybe, more than once.)

The new points system has definitely put an interesting slant on the way things are shaking out so far after the first two races. Just look at where some of the Chasers from last season are right now. Some are definitely having a hard time adjusting to the smaller points allotments and the time it takes to move back up after a bad week. It is still to soon to tell how it will affect the overall way things wring out simply because things usually do get mixed up fairly regularly during the first few races of the season. One thing to keep in mind though, if people like Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton continue having bad weeks, they may just have to qualify on time after the first five weeks are over. That being said, it adds a bit of pressure to them, but it doesn’t mean they will be considered one of the “go or go homers.” Although, should something happen during qualifying runs after the first five races, it may make things very interesting. (Can anyone say David Ragan?)

Kyle Bush is at the number one position in points followed by his brother, Kurt, in the second position. AJ Almendinger is in fourth place, which not bad for RPM or AJ either. With Marcos also qualifying well and running well this weekend, I guess we’ll see how things go for them.

Personally, it wouldn’t bother me at all if Marcos Ambrose pulls off the unexpected and ends the day in Victory Lane. Not only would it be a good thing for him but also for Richard Petty Motorsports and I think they both would feel good about taking a trophy home. You can call me an old softy if you want but, I would like to see them have a good year. After what Richard Petty had to endure at the end of last year, it would definitely be another “Feel Good” moment on the 2011 season, (at least for me, and a few others I know.)

As far as the track at Vegas, it’s just not predictable. Just because somebody runs well on Friday and Saturday doesn’t mean they will have the same results on Sunday. The track just changes over the weekend and sometimes those changes are completely unexpected and have nothing obvious to do with weather or temperature. More than one team has gone into a Sunday race at Vegas with high hopes and come away disappointed just because they thought they had it figured out from practice and qualifying.

This weekend at Vegas is going to be another great weekend of racing in NASCAR Cup. I don’t know how you feel about it, but from this fan’s view, I expect to see a lot of action on the track and in the pits and I’ll be watching what happens on every one of those double file restarts throughout the day.

If they run the way they did in qualifying and practice, I just hope the Fords don’t make the race to boring… (that just doesn’t sound like Vegas to me… does it to you?)

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 05, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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Phoenix After Thoughts from Just A Fans View

Rusty NormanNASCAR has had a real “Feel Good” start to the year so far with Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 and Jeff Gordon finally breaking a 66 race drought of winning and taking his 83rd win since breaking into Cup 19 years ago. From this fan’s view, the year is off to a very good start and many fans seem to agree. In fact, it is just a bit unusual for so little whining to be going on with all the changes that have been made. (Oh yeah, that’s right… it’s only week 2 of the season. I guess we should give it more time, huh?)

I have to admit, I am a little embarrassed because, well, the Fords didn’t do as well as I expected they would this last weekend in Phoenix and I am surprised about that. A quick look at the finishing order shows the top ten had one Ford and that was A.J. Allmendinger of Richard Petty Motorsports, (I really expected the Roush Fords to be the ones we would be talking about the most after PIR, but, it just goes to show, in NASCAR racing, you just never know until they run the race.) Some would say the Roush cars would probably have been more visible and nearer the front at the end of the race if it hadn’t been for those darn accidents (and they do have a pretty good point.) It is my opinion however, although they were strong, I’m not so sure they were as strong as it appeared at the beginning of the weekend.

In the top seven there were five Chevys and two Toyotas and that is worth taking note of. Of course, some of the finishing order was definitely altered by the “Big One” that took out a bunch of cars early, but I can’t say that had lot to do with the finishing order; that is, unless we consider the Ford of Carl Edwards. He had a very fast car and I guess we will never know how things might have gone between him, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Bush at, or near, the end of the race, although I sure do wish we could. Two of the three of them were the best on the track for most of the day, and I do think Carl Edwards being in contention at the end would have made it even more interesting.

Why anyone would want to complain about the racing so far this year is beyond me. Admittedly, I have heard a few grumblings, but for the most part, most fans are either happy with what’s happened in the races or they are just taking a wait and see attitude at least for the first several races, anyway.

Even the Dale Jr fans are feeling pretty positive and looking for good things to come his way in the near future (and I can’t say I disagree.) He and Steve Letarte seem to be making head way, communicating well and Jr seems more comfortable with Letarte than he has in the last several years with his other crew chiefs.

Phoenix was another proving ground for the points system and how the change NASCAR made to it is going affect the way the points line up over the season. It could make a drastic difference in the way things pan out if some of the favorites from last year keep on having bad luck and poor finishes. It is definitely different and, to this fan, it looks as if once you get behind it is much harder to catch back up, (but then, we’ve only had those two weeks of racing so far. One thing usually proves to be true tho; the cream will usually rise to the top if given half a chance.

One thing was very clear to this fan this weekend in Phoenix… as bad a week as the Hendrick teams had a Daytona, Phoenix was just as much the opposite for them. The Roush teams struggled (and the fault wasn’t necessarily theirs’.) Carl Edwards was caught up in a mishap with Kyle Bush and it ruined his day. Jeff Gordon was caught up in the same but escaped with little damage and continued, as did Kyle Bush. When something like that happens between the one that was favored to win and the the ones that finished first and second just shows another example of that thing called “racing luck.” (It is a very real thing and it has to go in your favor for you to do well.)

The hope is the Childress teams will have a turnaround week at Vegas the way the Hendrick teams did at Phoenix. From this fan’s view, it doesn’t appear a whole lot more can go wrong for them, so maybe this coming weekend will be a week they gain a few spots back in the points… or… maybe not.

See ya next time…

Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 04, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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A Look Back to Daytona and Ahead to Phoenix

Rusty NormanHi everyone and welcome to this extended edition of Just A Fan’s View…

NASCAR started off the season with a lot of positives. For the Cup teams, Sunday was definitely a historic day at Daytona and it is the NASCAR race many consider to be the biggest race of the year. In reality, it probably is the biggest race of the year and it was big in more ways than one. It was a race filled with drama and tension; a race with more than one “Big One” and for a while it looked as if there may only be a few cars running at the end. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case although the number actually in contention to win was somewhat reduced.

From this fan’s view, there couldn’t have been a more fitting end to the day than the story of the Wood brothers and their driver, Trevor Bayne. The Wood brothers are one of the oldest names in NASCAR and their driver is the youngest to ever win the Daytona 500. Absolutely no-one, including the driver himself, thought he had a chance to win it, but as is often the case at Daytona, he did it anyway.

I know you’ve probably heard this a hundred times in the last week, but, Sunday’s race at Daytona was only the second Cup start for Trevor Bayne and for him to win the 500 this soon in his career, well, it makes this fan wonder what the future may hold for him.

Since Trevor Bayne and the Woods brothers have occupied most of the media coverage over this last week, I don’t want to spend a whole lot more time on them and their success at the “Great American Race.” I would offer this little bit of information as food for you to think about over the next few days. Jeff Gordon was one of the first Cup drivers to notice something about Trevor and he was willing to hook up with him in the second Gatorade duel and it worked out well for the both of them, (until the end of the race, that is.)

Now, I don’t want to suggest anything, but, Jeff Gordon also noticed something about Jimmie Johnson and we all know where that has lead.

All in all, it was a rough day for some of the favorites at Daytona. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin all got caught up in a multi-car crash early on in the 500 along with many others. The only one of those three Hendrick teams that came out ahead on the day despite all that was Mark Martin. He at least finished on the lead lap while Gordon and Johnson finished many laps down in the last half of the field. (That was definitely not the way either of them wanted to start the year off.) Dale Jr. fared much better than the other three until near the end of the race when he had help nosing his car into the wall and that took him out of contention for winning in more ways than one on the day.

Along with the Hendrick teams and their troubles, the Richard Childress Teams of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton didn’t have a good day either as they both exited with engine troubles. Harvick was the first major player out and finished 42nd. With the new point system, it is a little harder to catch up from a really bad finish and he definitely will have his work cut out for himself over the next several weeks.

The Fords looked very strong on the weekend, (especially after the Chevys had their problems), and it remains to be seen if they will continue to run up front like they have lately. Carl Edwards finished second behind Trevor Bayne at Daytona and also won the last two races of the 2010 season. No matter how you look at that, it says Carl Edwards is looking strong in 2011 and, from this fan’s view, the Fords could be a dominating force all through this season.

Another driver/team to watch this season, at least from my view as a fan, would be Kurt Bush. He looked consistently strong at Daytona and sounds very confident in his car and team at the start of this season. He won two of the three Cup races he was in over Speed Weeks and was right there in position to win at the end of the 500. In my humble opinion, he is also one to watch as this season gets started and progresses.

Ok, Now let’s turn our attention to Phoenix International Raceway for this coming weekend.

There are a lot of questions going into the race this weekend. Probably the biggest one on most fans minds is whether or not Trevor Bayne can back up his winning performance in Daytona with a great performance in Phoenix. This is totally different from running a restrictor plate track and a lot can happen that may not be in his control.

If you’ve been one of the followers of Just A Fan’s View for any time at all, you already know how much I think of practice and qualifying, at least as far as the way the race may end up. I don’t think they tell us anything about how the race is going to go at all. What I do think they do is allow the teams a chance to test a few things at tracks they aren’t allowed to test at anymore, (according to the rules), and they can qualify for a good pit selection which could give them an advantage on race day. With the new rule NASCAR laid town about qualifying order being inversely related to practice speeds (or, slowest to fastest), we may see strategy even playing into the speeds we see during the practice times. (This is a wrinkle that should prove to be interesting and I reckon we’ll all have to have a wait and see attitude about it.)

Since this is the last race at PIR in its present configuration and on this track surface, I think some of the practices (and possible testing during them), has been for other reasons this year. They may be able to apply what they learn at PIR this weekend to other tracks, but when they return to PIR later this year, it will be basically a new track to the teams and that should really make for an interesting race late in the year.

No matter what the qualifying order turns out to be, this could be one of the more interesting races we’ve seen at Phoenix International Raceway in a while. I do expect to see some of the old faces to make a strong showing when it comes to the actual race, but Carl Edwards is probably in the catbird seat for two reasons:

  • First, he was the winner of the last race at Phoenix (even though it probably should have been won by Denny Hamlin) and
  • Second, he is driving a Ford (and they have been looking awfully strong, recently, when it comes to horsepower and finishing up front.)
  • A possible third reason would be he won the last two races of the 2010 season and finished second last weekend at Daytona.

Does that mean Carl Edwards is the choice for winning the Cup race this weekend? Nope… not at all. It just means he is on a roll and, if anyone is showing momentum so far, it would be him. (While I’m at it, I can’t ignore the fact that the rest of the Roush Fords are also looking very competitive on the weekend so far.)

Fords are just looking tough so far this year; (and you have no idea how hard that is for this Chevy fan to say that.) I raced Chevy’s, pulled my race-car trailer with one and still own one as I drive from place to place on a day to day basis. As a Chevy fan, I have to admit, it is about time the Fords have become more competitive against the Chevys and other brands, but I can’t deny the facts and that is the Chevys are still strong and have proved they can be as competitive as they need to be when it comes right down to it.

I don’t know about you, but from this fans view, I’m a bit undecided as to who will end up in Victory Lane this weekend. There is always the Hendrick Teams and all four of them are more than capable of doing so at Phoenix. I’m anxious to see how Dale Jr does with his new crew chief. He was doing well last weekend until he was taken out through no fault of his own.

Once again the Bush brothers both look like they could pull off a win this weekend and that could mean trouble for those that didn’t finish that well last weekend at Daytona. In fact, this could be another weekend that someone totally unexpected wins and it could be someone like Montoya or Ambrose. (I’m not saying they will, I’m just saying they could.)

Now that I’ve said all that, I have to say a number of cars are looking very good for taking the first spot this weekend. It could be a Ford, Toyota, Dodge or a Chevy. I do think it is likely the race is going to be decided by pit strategy and/or fuel mileage.

Uh, If you don’t believe me, just ask Denny Hamlin about that from the last race at PIR last year.

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© February 25, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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Looking at NASCAR 2011… from Just A Fan’s View

Rusty NormanHello everyone… this is Russ and I’d like to welcome you back to Just A Fan’s View for 2011. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the coming season and I think it’s going to be the best year yet, at least for NASCAR (and Just A Fan’s View, too), and I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out. Of course you know we won’t be able to determine much until after the first few weeks of competition, but, like last year, this year has had some changes to the rules and to the way the cars look and I reckon both will have an impact on the year; but only time will tell how much that impact will be.

I’m not sure what your opinion is, but the consensus in my personal polling of friends and associates is mixed at best. The biggest discussions have been about the usual things, like who will win the Chase (and who they hope won’t win) and how the new rules may affect the racing. Personally, I don’t see much difference in the rules that made last year so competitive and what we have to look forward to for this year, but I think NASCAR fans across the nation are going to be pleasantly surprised with the way everything works out and with the level of competition across the board. Hey, as a NASCAR fan, you know as well as I do, competition has never been closer than it is right now.

I look for the Fords of both, the Jack Roush and Richard Petty camps, to make a statement early in the year this season, if for no other reason than the statement Carl Edwards made by winning the last two races of the season last year. I also think this will be the year NASCAR fans have to take a serious look at the capabilities of the Toyotas of Michael Waltrip Racing. I’m not sure how they will do on all the types of tracks, but I do think they could be a force on the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. (I’m sure David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr are thinking that way and are ready to make that statement a reality.)

So, does that mean Joe Gibbs Racing is going to be left out in the cold with their Toyotas? Not at all… they’ve proven themselves and their performance last year was very strong; I just think the whole field is going to be more competitive this year and it remains to be seen how the JGR teams will fair as the season progresses.

As a quick side-note… I guess you noticed I haven’t said much about the Childress or Hendrick teams yet. The reason for that is the improvement of the Childress teams was well documented for most of last season and I don’t expect much to change in the days ahead for them. I do think RCR is a force that is going to have to be reckoned with if someone else wants to win the Championship this year. I’m not saying too much, because things can change on the competitive front so quickly in NASCAR, but, I don’t expect there to be much difference over last year in the performance of the teams from RCR as the season gets started and progresses. In particular, I think Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer will be tough competitors from the get go, (and of course, there is that other guy named Jeff Burton. If he can catch a few breaks this year, he just may surprise all of us.)

The Hendrick camp is a whole different story… It is already a well know fact there was a major switch-up, (uh, some would call it a major shake-up) in the off-season and the jury is still out as to how it will affect the performance of the four teams. The team left basically intact was the #48 team of Jimmie Johnson. Although there were some organizational changes made to the way the pit crew is made up and will train, he still has Chad Knaus as his crew chief and they still reside at the same shop. As for the rest of the Hendrick teams, major changes, along with major expectations are the order of the day. I have to agree with what many others are saying… Dale Jr needs to have a good year and with his new crew chief, Steve Letarte, the hope is he will make a good showing throughout the season and make the Chase this year. I think we will know sooner than later how that’s going the shake out, but when it comes to whether or not 2011 is going to be a good year for him, barring the complete unforeseen, I do expect him to perform well and I think he will be somewhere near the front at the Daytona 500.

Personally, I’m still not convinced Jeff Gordon won’t be making a run for his fifth Championship this year, (although some say he doesn’t really have much of a chance, what with a new crew chief and moving the #24 to the same shop as the #5.) I think Allan Gustavson and he will make a good team and I expect he will be one of the forces to be reckoned with as the season nears Chase Time. I just don’t see how sharing the same garage with the likes of Mark Martin can be a bad thing for Jeff. Somehow, I do think moving away from the #48 will be a plus for Gordon. Sometimes being too close to your competition (as well as a car you’re part owner of) can be a bad thing. I look for Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin to make themselves known right from the start of the year. Although this is Mark’s last year with the #5 team at Hendrick, I don’t expect him to just lay down and exit quietly. I do think he’ll be someone we’ll be talking about often during this season. Although he is comfortable with his accomplishments throughout his NASCAR career, if he is in position to win the Cup Championship, rest assured, he will give all he’s got and won’t hold back anything.

There are a lot of unknowns that have to be considered for this coming season. I haven’t even talked about Tony Stewart or the Bush brothers and what’s going on with them on their respective teams and then there’s that other guy, Denny Hamlin. Do I think they will all be silent? Not at all, but they’re not at the top of my list when it comes to those I think are going make a lot of noise to start off the year, (at least, not in the first few races), but they are definitely on the list of those I expect to see putting pressure on the rest and who knows, it could be I’m dead wrong and they are the ones all of the others will be “Chasing.”

I’m also thinking this could be the year Marcos Ambrose and, yes, even AJ Almendinger, win their first races in the Cup series. It isn’t so far fetched to think that way because both made some good showings last year and I expect both of them to improve as the season progresses. I think it would be great to see both of them do well if for no other reason than it would be very good for Richard Petty Motorsports and make up for some of what Richard has put his name on the line for and what he had to put with at the end of last year.

I know there are those I haven’t mentioned that have a very good chance of making it to Victory Lane at least sometime in the first 26 races and some of them are veterans and some are relatively new to the Cup series. Will one of them take the Championship? Well, that’s an great question and I really don’t have an answer for it at the moment, but… time will tell (as they say.)

Hey, that’s my take of how the 2011 season will start out and you can bet, it’s Just A Fan’s View, but, “It’s as good as any and better than many!!!”

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© February 11, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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NASCAR at Texas After Thoughts: Hamlin Wins Chase Race #8

Denny Hamlin not only won Chase race #8 but also took a 33 point lead over Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the 2010 Sprint Cup. If that was all that happened it would be a relatively ho-hum day for many, but Texas had a lot more than just a shift in who was leading in the points. It was a race and a day filled with drama, tempers and frustrations.

I have to admit, I didn’t think the top three would really be at the top of the scoring pylon, but I almost did get Jimmie Johnson’s finishing spot right; he did finish 9th on the day and lost a lot points to Hamlin. At first, it looked like I was going to be right because Hamlin and Harvick were not running all that well, but as the day wore on, they got better and better and the rest… well… it’s history (as they say).

Although I know everybody’s already heard about it, I can’t help but add my opinion to the mix about the “discussion” between the two Jeff’s, (uh, that would be Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon, in case you missed it.) The reason I have to say something about it is because I really didn’t see it the way Jeff Burton first said it happened. I know there was more to it than just him putting Jeff Gordon in the wall, but it was amazing how Burton explained it.

If you get a chance to listen to it, do; I really don’t think you’ll believe your ears. Burton said he didn’t mean to do it, but it certainly doesn’t look that way in the videos I saw. He said Gordon pulled up in front of him, but in actuality, Burton pulled down behind Gordon, laid the bumper to him, started pushing him and ran him directly into the wall hard. Burton also said he didn’t know what happened; they must have gotten hooked together or Gordon hit him and messed up his tie rods or something.

From my view, as a fan, it certainly looked like Jeff Burton didn’t actually know the yellow was out or, maybe he did but didn’t want to admit it and was surprised when he pulled down behind Gordon and the #24 slowed down. As I say, this is just my opinion, but it did look like Burton intended to lay the bumper to Gordon to let him know he was upset about something, (although that something is unknown at the moment.) As it turned out, both of them finished way back in the finishing order, Burton was able to come back on the track many laps later and Gordon and his team packed it in.

There has been a lot of chatter since the race about the changing of the pit crew for the #48 of Jimmie Johnson. Although it isn’t the first time it has happened, it is absolutely not the norm. As close as the points race is and as many spots as the pit crew’s mistakes were costing Jimmie, something had to be done. Many think it is, (or should be), against the rules to change pit crews during a race. Some said they win as a team and they should lose as one and I understand that view point. Others just think it shouldn’t be allowed and that Jimmie should have no options but to let the pit crew’s performance destroy his day (and I understand that one, too.)

I say, hey, the #48 guys were struggling, (and Paul Menard didn’t help matters on the very first pit stop by leaving his pit stall and almost taking out a couple of Jimmie’s crewmen and knocking one of the #48’s tires into the infield. (Personally, I think that rattled them from the start.) If it had only been one pit stop or maybe two, maybe they should have left them in. As it was, there were a total of four stops they cost Johnson positions on the track; they just never seemed to be clicking on all cylinders at all. When Burton took Gordon out, opportunity knocked, crew chiefs Knaus and Letarte communicated and decided it was time to shake things up and they sure did.

Kyle Bush and NASCAR had a little disagreement that would have only cost him a lap. Since he decided to make an issue of it and let his emotions take over for just a few seconds, it put him down 3 laps and made it very difficult for him to recover. I’ve listened to a lot of viewpoints about the event, (which for those that missed it, included him “flipping off” a NASCAR official in his discontent), and I think many missed the point. It appears a majority think he was penalized for the “flip off” but I am of the opinion, (along with several others), it was because he was flagrant in his arrogance against the sanctioning body, which in this case is the same as if some player in another type sport did the same thing to a referee or umpire. In the latter instance, they would have been thrown out of the game. In Kyle’s case, he was allowed to stay in the game, they just made it seem like he was out of it.

It may be just this fan’s opinion, but, I’m thinking it was a good thing NASCAR did. I have grown a bit weary of people making the excuse for Kyle that it is just because he is so competitive. I’m not denying his talents and he has come a long way in controlling his emotions this season. He is going to win more races and some championships in the future, but he still has a bit more work to do to become that overall champion he and his fans want him to be…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 10, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com)

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NASCAR at Martinsville After Thoughts: Hamlin Wins and Pulls Within Six Points of Jimmie Johnson

Denny Hamlin won Chase race #6 and, interestingly enough, pulled within six points of points leader Jimmie Johnson in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. He entered into the weekend saying he wanted to start on the pole, (which he did), lead the most laps, (which he didn’t) and win the race (which he did.)  When all was said and done for the day at Martinsville, some in the top twelve were better off and some were much further behind than when the day started.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick both pulled closer to Jimmie Johnson in points and at least for those top three, it is becoming a tight race for the Championship. The two of them continue to make it an interesting Chase and both look to be the ones to end the #48’s consecutive Championships at four. Both Hamlin and Harvick manage to finish near the front each week even though at times it looks like they’re going to finish nearer to the back. If nothing happens differently for the top three, I expect to see the three of them fighting for the Cup when things wind down at Homestead in four weeks, although I’m not quite sure what order they will be in when they get there.

The only other one still within striking distance for the Chase at the moment is Kyle Bush but he is 172 points behind the leader. Unfortunately for him, it will take the top three having disastrous weeks at more than Talladega this coming weekend and him finishing strongly ahead of the field over the next few weeks. He will want to win poles, lead the most laps and win a couple of races, hoping the top three have overwhelming complications to really make it interesting by the time the Chase does reach Homestead.

With all the developments at RPM last week and along with Kasey Kahne suddenly moving to the Red Bull #83 team, it appeared to this fan we might not hear much from Kasey for a while. Actually, he finished a very respectable 14th on the day and I am sure had mixed emotions for the day. It does appear he has moved on and will be ready for next season. There is still some uncertainty about Richard Petty Motorsports and how they are going to come out of this situation. As a long time fan of NASCAR, I do hope the best for them.

The Hendrick teams did have three finish in the top ten, but two of them aren’t actually in the Chase this year. Mark Martin finished second, even after having a slight meeting with the wall early in the race and Dale Earnhardt Jr ran strong on the day and finished seventh. He and his fans were ecstatic as he led for 90 laps. It should prove to be interesting how he does this coming weekend in Talladega. After all, it is a well known fact he runs very well at restrictor plate races and his performance at Martinsville just might give him and his team some momentum and hope for a good performance at the last restrictor plate race for 2010.

Jeff Gordon had a bad day for the third week in a row (with a little help from Kurt Bush in the #2 Penske Dodge.) I admit, one of the three races didn’t turn out as bad as the others, but the last two have been killers for the #24 team. He has lost a bunch of points to the leaders and sits 203 points behind at fifth place only 10 points ahead of Carl Edwards and only 33 points ahead of Tony Stewart. Unless the #24 team hits a really hot streak, this fan thinks this year’s drive for Jeff’s fifth Cup Championship is over. (Oh well, there’s always next year… Right?)

Personally, I think the field is pretty much set for the showdown at Homestead in four weeks. I don’t hold out much hope even for Kyle Bush to really make a move closer to the top three, unless something at Talladega catches all three of the top runners up in it and doesn’t touch the rest. Still yet, it should prove to be very interesting how the next couple of races go. Kevin Harvick won at Talladega in April and hopes to do the same this coming weekend.

Of course, restrictor plate racing is one of the hardest races to call, simply because so many cars seem to stay in the main pack. I know several drivers are going to Talladega now that Martinsville is done, hoping to take home a win and more than a couple are quite capable of doing so. Unfortunately, the top three in points are quite capable of winning at a restrictor plate track also and that just means this coming weekend is going to be a make it break it weekend for those in fourth to twelfth.

Since at the moment, the top three are only racing each other, I do expect to see some defensive driving going on by Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, but, I do expect to see those other nine drivers in the Chase pressing the envelope to try and make up some points and get back into the hunt for the Chase…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 26, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com

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NASCAR At Martinsville: It’s Do or Die For at Least Six In Chase Race #6

Rusty NormanIt’s coming down to do or die for about six (almost seven) Chasers and, if something doesn’t go differently for those in the top three soon, it will really be a three car Chase. As I said earlier this week, I’m not ready to count anybody in the top eight out just yet, but even this fan has to admit, it is looking might bleak for those guys at the moment. That is unless that disaster happens to one or two of the top three (or all three for that matter) and turns the current points situation around completely.

Of course there are those that hope and pray that disaster will happen and those that say emphatically, “There ain’t no way!” As can be expected, many of the latter of those are the ones that have already given the Cup to Jimmie Johnson.

I’m not one of those however… I am one of those that would like to see the points race tighten up if for no other reason than to make the rest of the season more interesting to watch as the Chase moves on through the next five races. I don’t think anyone would deny that watching six or eight drivers contending for the championship on a weekly basis as opposed to two or three all the way to Homestead is much better.

There’s a lot of talk about these next two weeks being the deciding tracks at separating the possible winners from the hopefuls and it is possible they could be. Martinsville is a half mile short track, Talladega a 2.5 plus mile super speedway and it is true, anything can happen at either one of them, especially trouble. The worst that could happen is the top three have two bad races in a row and completely shake up the points and put almost everyone back in the Chase for the Cup Championship. (Now we all know what the possibilities of that happening are, but it is fun to think about what it would be like IF it did by the time they all reach that final race in Homestead.)

Many have already handed the trophy for this weekend to Denny Hamlin since he qualified on the pole and looked really strong in practice. I’m not going to go that far even though, statistically speaking, he and Jimmie Johnson have won most of the races there recently. I just think back to last weekend how Jeff Gordon had the wheels come off his drive for possibly winning his fifth Championship with a bad alternator and then two mistakes in the pits. (You have to admit, he’s definitely had a couple of bad weeks in row.)

You can say what you will, but the very same thing can happen to Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville and completely change the look of the Chase in short order. (The same goes for Kevin Harvick, too.)

As a fan, I like to consider the possibilities even if they do sound impossible for the moment. NASCAR Sprint Cup racing has always been pretty unpredictable and with the cars being so equal any more, I just don’t think anything is outside the realm of actually happening. The chances of both, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson having major setbacks this weekend or next weekend (possibly even both) are almost unimaginable, but the fact remains, it can happen.

The thing about racing, (and I guess other sports, too) is Jimmie’s and Denny’s fate is not totally controlled by them and their crews. There are forty-one other teams that are trying to make statements for their sponsors, fans and owners as well and all it takes is being in the wrong place at the right time and a very good day can become a very bad one in a hurry.

This could be the second week in a row that a non-Chaser wins. Once again, the EGR teams look impressive and could once again surprise all of us by either Jamie McMurray or Juan Pablo Montoya taking the trip to Victory Lane. Ryan Newman looks strong again this weekend and could take it home for Stewart/Haas Racing. Even though I don’t expect it to happen, there is the possibility of a Michael Waltrip team pulling off a dark horse victory. Both David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr are capable and like short tracks.

With all that’s going on surrounding Kasey Kahne and Richard Petty Motorsports, I find it interesting that Marcos Ambrose qualified on the front row and, in this fan’s opinion, could win this weekend. Yeah, I know he won’t be representing RPM until next season, but it would be a big boost in moral for his present team and for his future team, (that is if his future team is still operating next season.)

There are several I would like to see win this weekend, but, there are also those I hope don’t. I won’t mention any names simply because it’s not that important. I do think it would be great to see one of the RPM cars finish at, or near, the top and I think it would be great if Marcos Ambrose takes the trip to Victory Lane.

I don’t think either one of the above is going to happen and I don’t think the one I want to win will wither. I do think this is going to be an interesting race, and because it is a short track and 500 laps, I expect there will be more than a few short tempers by the time it’s over. Whether anything comes of those possible temperament issues is anybody’s guess, but as for me I’m gonna be watching… just in case.

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 23, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com

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Nascar at Charlotte: It’s Chase Race #5 and Those Driving To Stay Alive

Rusty NormanThis is the last night race for the 2010 NASCAR Cup season and some of the top twelve are absolutely driving to stay alive in the Chase. This is the midpoint of the Chase, and unfortunately, some may have already crossed over the line (or point of no return) and some are on the edge, but after this weekend more of those racing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup will not have another chance at competing for it until next year.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is a very sensitive track when it comes to track temperature and in this fan’s opinion, should make this night race a bit more interesting than maybe it would be in the daytime. The reason I say this is because of the challenge it gives to the engineers and crew chiefs by pressing them to work with unknowns.

The practice sessions don’t fall at the same time as the end of the race. The track temperature, even though they have practiced into the early evening, can be up to twenty degrees different from the time they start the race to when they finish it. This means they don’t actually see what they will have to work with by the end of the race and it is “best guess” when it comes to being ready to work with the setups.

So, does this mean they are completely in the dark when it comes to the late race setup changes? No, it just means they have to use “all” of their input to come up with their “best guess” and if they blow it, it is almost a given their team will struggle all night. It also means the crew chiefs will have to listen to a frustrated driver for most of the race and that will make their night even more stressful.

I have to wonder if this will finally be the race that someone other than an actual Chaser wins. During the practice sessions, several cars were fast and even a quick look at qualifying  shows some outside the Chase as capable of putting up very fast times. Of course, once again, I have to mention the Roush/Fenway teams, too. The Richard Petty Motorsports teams qualified well and the Roush/Fenway teams of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle looked awfully strong in the final practice.

Another thing I take into consideration is this is a 500 mile race. That extra 100 miles means a little more time for things to either go better, or worse, for the competitors. The first races in the Chase are a little shorter and this race could do more to help those that don’t quite get it going until the later stages of the race.

Ones to watch tonight in the Bank of America 500 are mixed inside and outside the top twelve Chasers. I’m thinking a couple of those outside the top twelve are AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Newman.  They have been running strong, or at least showing a lot of strength in the last several races. Allmendinger qualified third and Newman eleventh. Kyle Bush is another that could end up in Victory Lane by the end of the night and appeared to be pretty happy with his car by the end of final practice. His brother, Kurt is another looking to make a statement tonight and he looked impressive even after a dust up with the wall during practice.

Jeff Gordon had a great qualifying run and starts on the pole. I’m not sure whether they just didn’t want to show what they really have or whether they really were struggling in all of the practice sessions; (I reckon we’re going to have to wait and see how the #24 team’s night pans out.

Carl Edwards qualified second and showed he could still run fast in the final practice. The problem with running the fastest time in a practice session and running the fastest laps consistently during runs in a session  is the two don’t usually add up to a victory at the end of the night. Fastest for one lap is good; fastest for an entire fuel and tire run is much better and generally puts that driver and team at, or near the front at the end of the race.

I’m still a believer that qualifying says very little about how someone will perform during the actual race and from my observations, there hasn’t been that much advantage going to those that qualified up front over the last few races. It has proven out that the ones that qualified on the front rows, especially those outside the Chase, haven’t necessarily faired that well in the final results.

This being Charlotte and track position being so important, it is possible that having better pit stalls could make a difference at the end of the night. I guess it will depend on whether or not there are late race cautions and how they fall.

The biggest game changer all season has been the double file restarts. The strategies at the end of the race have become even more important because of them. The decision of how many tires to take and full or partial fueling can make a big difference in how the teams lineup for those restarts and it becomes even more complicated when you add in the possibilities of up to three green-white-checkered finishes, especially at Charlotte in the fall on a Saturday night…

Hey, I’m just sayin’…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 12, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com