The format is really pretty simple… 75 laps of taking chances a driver may not normally take in a points race, flat out, take no prisoners racing in two segments of 25 and 50 laps and the winner takes home the money. It should be a lot of hard-nosed, kinda old school racing and we as fans should always be expecting the unexpected. That should sum up The Clash for 2017 – but will it? Well… maybe.
Hello good friends and welcome back to NascarFansView, the 2017 NASCAR season and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racing. This will be short and to the point just like The Clash will be tomorrow night. (Wow! It is really hard to not say NASCAR Sprint Cup racing but I will try my best not to slip up…)
I can’t tell you how happy I am they’re getting back to it and I am looking forward to another great Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season and honestly, it seems like it’s been forever since they’ve been on the track. Well… that is… it seems like it’s been forever since they’ve been on the track competing against and with all the others.
I know I’m not alone in this thinking but I can’t help wonder how things are going to pan out this season what with Carl Edwards abruptly retiring from Cup racing, Stewart/Haas Racing switching to Ford and a number of new items laid down by the NASCAR hierarchy that could be a bit challenging for all the teams. There is no need for me to go into detail at this point – because I have all season to do that – but it really should prove to be very interesting. Well… at least that is what I think about it at the moment, but hey, I’m just a NASCAR fan that likes to express my opinion now and again.
I will admit I am anxious to see how it all shakes out even though things won’t really come into focus until next week when the real season starts. No doubt The Clash will be exciting and full of intensity but it won’t be anything like the Daytona 500 happening next weekend. Hey, that’s not a knock against The Clash in any way – I’m looking forward to it. What I am interested in is watching some great door handle to door handle, bumper to bumper tight pack restrictor plate racing with no points that matter to anyone but plenty of intensity and excitement in the short 75 lap race. All I can say at this point is, “Bring it on!!”
*************************Two Buck Themes ad **************************** MUSIC MAKES IT BETTER =>> Get 5 new themes, video tutorials each month for $10 ****************************************************************************** There is more than one thing good about the race in Kentucky tonight and that is that it will be a night race. With the temperatures possibly hitting triple digits during the day everyone, from the fans to the drivers and crews will be happy they can escape at least some of the heat. If it were a daytime race on a Sunday afternoon, it would be hot. As it is, it will be hot, just not as hot.
So, what is the big deal about the heat near the end of June and the race at the Kentucky Speedway. Well, probably not too much, at least comparing the night-time race to the practice sessions during those hot daytime hours. If anything, it just means the crew chiefs will have to earn their money if they want to keep up with the changing track conditions as they transition from early evening into the night.
I can hear a chorus of you saying right now, “So…. what’s the big deal?!?”
Well, as I mentioned earlier, not too much.
From my view, it was more something for the TV commentators to talk about during the practice and qualifying sessions. In fact, the qualifying session proved one thing about the track when it cools down – it gets a lot faster! What that will mean in tonight’s race remains to be seen but, from this fan’s view, I hope it really doesn’t turn into a one car dominated race as it did in the Nationwide race last night. Well, that is unless the guy I want to see win is dominating the rest of the field… (ha, ha, ha..Yes I’m kidding… )
Okay, I admit it… I like close competition, especially in the final laps of a race. Last week’s race at Sonoma had a caution near the end of it and it made the last several laps much more interesting than was actually was going to be. Clint Bowyer had the field covered last weekend and even though there was that caution, he ended up winning over Kurt Bush by driving the wheels off his race car. From my view, it’s just that it was a lot more interesting to watch than it was going to be.
The interesting thing about the Kentucky Speedway is that it is just a bit precarious especially in turns three and four, but essentially, there are bumps in other places too. The drivers say the bumps give the track character and they do but, I’m not willing to day how much that character will add to the drama later in the race tonight.
From my view, I think the thing that could add to the drama is how closely many of the cars qualified after the delay and the track cool-down. Unless one or two of the teams hit it just right and there are very few caution flags, it could be a very interesting night in Kentucky.
Unfortunately, this has been a year of fewer than normal caution flags during a race. There are many theories as to why that is but that isn’t my point here. The point is, the teams that miss the setup to begin with will be hard pressed to make changes to their cars without losing a lot of track position unless there are some times they can make those adjustments without losing track position. It is a known fact, cautions allow that to happen, but if things go as they usually have for most of this season, they can’t be depended upon. From this fan’s view, that puts all the more pressure on the teams to have the cars right when they hit the track. That way they just need to keep up with the changing track conditions as the race progresses.
From this fan’s view, the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky tonight could be full of surprises. I know Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Bush are fast and they do start on the front row. What I don’t know is if they can stay up front for the whole race. In fact, Denny Hamlin and just about anyone in the top 25 could end up in Victory Lane tonight, but even qualifying doesn’t tell the whole story about the possibilities since the track cooled down at least forty degrees about in the middle of it. It is my opinion (and I’ve said this many times before) qualifying does not tell how the race will go. Sure, it is important to start at or near the front but this is a 400 mile race and going into it there are a lot of uncertainties.
“Racing Luck” is another thing that no one can predict. Although many have had their bouts with racing luck this year, several that stand out would be Kyle Bush, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon. Of these three (and there are others) Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon have had the worst of it this year. It’s not that they haven’t been competitive, it’s just that thing I call the old “R-L Beast” has reared its ugly head more than once for all three of them.
So am I saying Racing Luck could be the deciding factor in tonight’s race???
No, not really. What I am saying is that even though several will be watching those starting up front, I’m looking for some real surprises coming from the middle of the lineup in the Quaker State 400 tonight. I admit it’s definitely going to be track position, fuel mileage,tire management and of course no mistakes on pit road that will be most important tonight. But wouldn’t it be interesting to see Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Bush fighting it out on the final laps, instead of recounting how good they were running before the “Racing Luck beast” took them out of contention for a change… ?
*************************Two Buck Themes ad **************************** MUSIC MAKES IT BETTER =>> Get 5 new themes, video tutorials each month for $10 ****************************************************************************** NASCAR hits the road course at Sonoma today and it is anybody’s guess who will win. There are several drivers that are very good at road course racing but, the best ones are not necessarily what are called “ringers” anymore. In fact, many will tell you being a “ringer” doesn’t mean much at all at the end of the race unless you end up in victory lane. That’s something that hasn’t happened lately and it really hasn’t happened much at all. The difference these days is that almost all of the Cup drivers and teams take road racing as a challenge and more want to be good at it than just survive it.
Two of the fastest will be starting out front today and it is no secret that the front row contains two very good road racers, in Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Gordon. Of course, there are several more good road racers right behind them, too. In fact, it is hard to find someone that isn’t a hard charger on a road course in the top twenty five or so.
That alone doesn’t necessarily mean any of them could win but it does show how the perception of road racing in NASCAR has changed over the years. No longer is it something that comes along twice a year and everyone just wants to survive it. No, now it is something that is as competitive as short track racing and there tends to be the same amount of strong emotions displayed often during a road race as there is at a short track. All of the drivers seem to enjoy the Road Circuits and each one of them wants to be the one in Victory lane at the end of the day. None of them wants to wear the title of being bad at Road Racing. Since Cup drivers are called the best race car drivers in the world, there is no way they want to known as the worst Road Racer in the world.
What I expect for the race today is some very aggressive driving by most of the drivers and some of them have something to prove. It does seem that some were conservative in practice and qualifying and will very likely be wanting to move towards the front as quickly as they can.
One I’m thinking of in particular is someone we haven’t heard from much in Cup lately and that would be, Robby Gordon. He is a very good road racer (amongst other types of racing) and should be someone we will be hearing about throughout the afternoon today. I think this is the first time in many years, that every NASCAR Cup team has at least one strong road racer in their camp and I do believe that is going to make today’s race very interesting (and competitive) from beginning to end. That means it is going to be very hard to pick who will actually end up in Victory Lane at the end of the day. I’m leaning very heavily towards the two starting out front today, but as we have all seen more than once this year, anything can happen to Jeff Gordon and the same holds true for Marcos Ambrose.
Oh well, enough of that for now. From this fan’s view, I think the road courses are some of the most interesting races of the year in the NASCAR series. It is good to see how serious the drivers and teams take their jaunts on tracks like Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I love the oval tracks just as much or more than the road courses, it’s just that I love the intensity the drivers display on Road courses these days. There is usually something going on at all times somewhere in the pack someplace on the track. Honestly… it’s not at all like it used to be.
*************************Two Buck Themes ad **************************** MUSIC MAKES IT BETTER =>> Get 5 new themes, video tutorials each month for $10 ******************************************************************************************* Greg Biffle won the Samsung Mobile 500 last Saturday night… but then, you already knew that. He also broke a 49 race drought of being in Victory Lane… but that’s just about all you heard about his victory all week, too. So, what else is there to talk about when it comes to the race at Texas Motor Speedway? Well… I guess that depends.
You see, Greg Biffle not only has the points lead, but he has a victory to go with it. Some would say he is on a tear (while others may say “on a roll”) and that’s okay because either one fits. Compared to last year, he is doing great and is running consistently up front. Even if he runs into some rough races in the weeks ahead, that victory will carry some weight along the way for him, but, he will probably need more than one if the bottom does drop out for him. Add to all that the fact that Roush teams have a tendency to run well at 1 ½ mile tracks and it is very possible he could win at least one more (and probably more than that.)
Some have already crowned him the Cup Champion for the year and they could be right. Even with the new points system, he really needs to stumble for most of the field to even stay close to him, but this fan thinks it is way to soon to be naming someone to take the Cup Championship.
Yeah, it’s true he has looked unstoppable so far and all of his finishes are in the top fifteen but that doesn’t always mean he will continue with his present stats. Admittedly, it does look like he is going to continue with his strong showing but, this is not quite 1/3 of the way into the season.
From this point on, anything can happen even if it is someone (or several someones) hitting a hot streak and the #16 team just having decent finishes outside the top ten. If that does happen, there is always the possibility Biffle and his team could start trying to press their own envelope to try and regain the performance levels they’ve enjoyed in this early part of the year and begin to fall backwards in the points. Of course you know this is just speculation from this fan’s view but it could happen.
Once again, the Hendrick teams didn’t score the 200th victory for their boss, Rick Hendrick but all of them did have a good day at TMS. (I hate to state the obvious, but two of them, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon, really needed it.) It did appear that Jimmie Johnson was going to take home the trophy and the honors for scoring number two hundred for Hendrick MotorSports, but Biffle’s power slide past him as they dealt with lap traffic late in the race put an end to that possibility.
Michael Waltrip Racing had a very good showing with two from that camp finishing in the top ten. Mark Martin lead the way for MWR finishing third and Martin Truex Jr finishing sixth. It is very obvious that MWR has turned a corner on performance issues of the past and all three teams are showing up every weekend with fast cars and good race-day runs. That doesn’t mean they are perfect yet, but it does mean they could be in Victory Lane at any time in the near future.
From this fan’s view, Texas proved just how close the main teams are running these days and how important track position is every week. It also showed that Roush Racing has a strong grip performance-wise on the 1 ½ mile tracks and that could prove to be a good thing, in particular for Greg Biffle and the #16 team. It just may mean that Greg Biffle does have a chance at staying at the top of the points, at least up to Chase time. Then again, it could mean absolutely nothing at all for him or Roush Racing when the Chase begins.
Happy New Year to everyone and welcome to Just A Fan’s View. I do hope you all had a great Christmas and over-all great holiday time, but it is time to get back to NASCAR racing. Sure, I know the regular season stuff doesn’t start for another month, but, the NASCAR Cup teams have already started their new year with Preseason Thunder (as if they weren’t working on it before now) and all of them are working on the information they gathered from the test sessions in Daytona this last week. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the season to start.
Over the next few weeks, you will probably notice some changes around this site (and our other site, nascarfansview.com.) I thought I would take just a moment to remind our regular visitors (and explain to our new ones) what you will find here.
Just so you know if you’re new and as a reminder to some, you won’t find any interviews with drivers and you won’t find any with crew chiefs, either. There are many others that do those and have better access to all of them. We believe most of the time, they are great and at other times not-so-great, but we try to leave that to them. What we try to give here is from the perspective of “just a NASCAR fan” that has had the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat at local tracks, win some races and some championships, even though not in the NASCAR Truck, Nationwide or Cup series.
(Yes, that perspective I just mentioned happens to be mine.) Hey look, it’s not that I don’t appreciate or seek out others views, but once again, you can find them even more often than you can find the pictures and videos at those other sites. Probably the only place I know you can get my opinion and viewpoint about NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing is right here.
I have often been asked why we don’t have more pictures and videos of the NASCAR scene on this site. We just don’t do that here simply because the internet is full of them. The easy answer is because I know (and I know that you know) you can find all of that on just about every NASCAR related site. (Hey look, we’re just like you and we check those sites out, too.) But please remember this about us… this is a site that is about looking at NASCAR racing from a just a NASCAR fan’s view but we are not afraid to express our opinion about what goes on in and around the sport. Believe me when I tell you, we’ve been around racing and NASCAR a long time and do have our own opinion about what goes on, in and around this great sport.
Of course, we do our level best to express that opinion all the while remembering that it doesn’t have to be done in a course way. We intend to never use course language, because we know our kids and grandkids will be reading and listening to us. Anyone can use foul language, but we don’t and we don’t intend to allow it here, even in the comments section. We don’t apologize for that but we do understand not everyone agrees with us. We just hope it doesn’t deter you from reading or listening to our viewpoint on a week to week basis because we do think you will like what you find here…
Listen, I’ve been a stock car racing fan since I was about four or five years old. I’ve been a NASCAR fan for just about as long as I can remember, too and I have seen it grow and become what it has become over those years. I love NASCAR racing and this is “Just A Fan’s View of NASCAR Racing…”
********************************************************************************************* And so it comes down to this… the 2011 NASCAR Cup Championship is all about winning, or at least, three points. Tony Stewart needs to win at Homestead or at least finish four points ahead of Carl Edwards by the end of the race Sunday afternoon and he will be the Cup Champion. Carl Edwards needs to win or finish just behind or just ahead of Stewart and he will be the Cup Champ. Either way, there is truly no way of knowing until the race is over, (or one or both of them drop out because of and accident or major failure) which one it will be.
From this fan’s view, this is exactly what NASCAR hoped for when they started the Chase format for the Championship and there couldn’t be a better way to end the year. (Well, there are those that think it would be better if the points were closer throughout the top twelve and more than two could win it.) This is not the first time the points battle has been close, but it is the first time it has been this close with the new points system and with the competition throughout the cup teams being as close as it has ever been.
I probably don’t have to remind you again, but this fan doesn’t generally put much stock in qualifying. Everybody knows it’s not how fast you can go for one or two laps but how fast you can consistently go over many laps. Preferably, it is important for a driver to be able to gain places on the track, maintain a faster speed than his competitors and have his pit crew pick up even more time for him in the pits and maintain track position.
It is important to notice where Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards qualified however, if for no other reason than who is going to be in clean air first (and possibly most often.) Carl Edwards qualified on the pole for today’s Championship race while Tony Stewart qualified fifteenth. I’m not so sure that was exactly how Tony wanted to start the race but he did seemed to be more pleased with his race trim than qualifying trim.
That’s where the importance of those consistently fast lap times I mentioned earlier come in. It was obvious Tony and crew chief Darian Grubb were working on the race trim during their practice times much more than qualifying. One of the biggest problems I see with where he is starting is how many possibilities for getting caught up in something not of his own making. In other words, it is possible his chances for moving forward or winning could be hurt by someone else’s mistake.
By starting on the pole, Carl Edwards has a definite advantage. From my view, his first worry is whether his crew chief, Bob Osborn’s setup is good for the beginning of the race and he pulls away from the field out into clean air. There is always the possibility the setup could be missed by just enough to cause him to fall back into the field, as has happened in the recent past, and open up the possibilities for problems (much like Tony Stewart could face from the start), and I hate to put a damper on the whole day, but neither one of them may even be close to the front for the whole race.
Now you may ask, “Do I really think that’s what going to happen?” Well… no… but, I won’t rule out the possibility either. NASCAR is way to competitive right now to think that everyone is going to move over and let the top two just work it out between themselves. I do have to admit, I don’t think Homestead is the place there are going to be a lot of paybacks for something, but I do know the competitive spirit will be very evident throughout the race.
Let’s not forget that NASCAR is all about winning and, although I know there only two that can win the Championship, there are more than two that want to finish the year with a trip to victory lane. In fact, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Bush and Brad Keselowski would like nothing better than to finish ahead of both Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart and won’t think twice about putting them behind them or making it hard for them to pass them.
If you’re wondering why I feel this way about it, it’s all because of a thing called adrenaline. No matter what attitude a person may have before the race starts, when the green flag drops, the “bull-hockey” stops and the adrenaline kicks in. If recent weeks tell us anything, not everyone of the drivers will make good decisions about how they’re treated by their fellow competitors or handle every situation with cool, calm deliberation. No, several will react without considering the consequences of their actions and how they might affect even the most innocent of bystanders. (It wouldn’t be the first time that someone reacted and took out someone other than they intended, especially this year.)
So, from this fan’s view, the hope is the race will come down to Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart battling for the win on the final laps and one of them coming away with the win and the Championship.
Will it be a race that Carl Edwards dominates and Tony Stewart struggles all day or, possibly, the other way around? That’s a good question and one that will only be answered as the race progresses.
Is it possible that both, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards fall back and it is just a points battle between them while someone else dominates the race? I don’t know, but it is a possibility. In fact, with only three points separating the top two drivers, anything can and probably will happen. The only thing I really hope is that it isn’t a complete blowout by one of them and the whole race becomes a ho-hum experience. I really would like to see the race to come down to the final lap and some doubt as to who might win until they cross the finish line.
So… will it be Tony Stewart or Carl Edwards that wins the 2011 Cup Championship? Yep, it will…
********************************************************************************************* Unpredictable… that’s what I would call the race that will take place on Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. Well, maybe that is a little strong, but I do know the pressure is on all of the Chasers, (especially those that need a good finish), and Kansas is a very challenging track. It isn’t the kind of place any of the Chasers that are struggling a bit want to have problems at and even though they put on good face, you can tell all of them are feeling the pressure to perform.
And then you have all of those that aren’t in the Chase. They only feel the heat of wanting to win and that makes for very interesting circumstances for all involved in this race. For starters, the starting lineup has five Chasers and five non-Chasers. Greg Biffle isn’t in the Chase but is sitting on the pole and he is the defending winner from this time last year.
Of course, right along with Greg B iffle are a couple of his teammates from Roush Racing. Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are just as capable of taking the win Sunday afternoon and they start second and fourth and are in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
From my view, this is definitely one of the Chase races of 2011 that I think is likely to be won by a non-Chaser. (Yeah, I know I’ve said that more than once, but I really do think there is a greater likelihood of it happening this weekend than any so far.) Let me repeat myself one more time… Kansas Speedway is unpredictable (and for more than one reason.)
So, what are some of those reasons? Well, I’m glad you asked and I am more than willing to give my opinion (as you already know.)
Kansas is a different one-and-a-half mile track than most any other the NASCAR teams face. It is basically a flat track but it is a fast track. The two ends of it are different enough that the drivers have to handle them differently. The biggest concern I hear voiced by the drivers is the exit of turn four. After that, the next biggest concern is the seams in the asphalt. Both of them together seem to make the racing grooves a challenge for the drivers, especially when they are racing two or three wide in the turns and elsewhere on the track and can’t choose their favorite line.
Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying the track is precarious but I am saying it is unpredictable and there is a difference. Precarious means dangerous, risky or perilous. I don’t think Kansas is that. I do think it is unpredictable and for me, that means there is no guarantee that the line a driver used the last time around that the car is going to respond the same way the next time around, depending of course on the circumstances.
I guess the next question is which make is going to end up with the win Sunday afternoon. From this fan’s view, that is the question that is going to be the hardest to answer until the race is about half way over. We all know that a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota sat on the pole last weekend and fell like a rock through the field for the whole race. Will the same thing happen to Greg Biffle and his Roush/Fenway Ford Sunday afternoon? That is a very good question and it is one of those things I was referring to earlier when I said we won’t know until the race is about half over. I don’t expect any of the Roush Fords to fall like rocks through the field, but since we are talking about NASCAR Cup and possibly basing performance on qualifying times, I guess it could happen. From this fan’s view, I just don’t think it is likely and I do expect them to be in contention at the end of the race.
Overall, the Hendrick Chevys seem to be struggling just a bit, but I expect them to be in the hunt on Sunday afternoon. Of course when we mention the Hendrick Chevys, we are talking about those guys from Stewart/Haas also. Both Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman need to have good finishes as do Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. (Need I even mention, Jimmie Johnson?)
The Penske Dodges and the Gibbs’ Toyotas not only need good finishes but are quite capable of running up front, too. Whether or not they will just remains to be seen and don’t forget who won back in June… Yeah, that’s right, Brad Keselowski and there is always the question if his late season surge is going to continue.
This is a weekend that could be a real turning point for the twelve Chasers. If some of the front runners have bad finishes, it could totally shake up the points standings since there are only nineteen points separating the top nine spots. It is also possible some of them could dig themselves deeper holes by having bad finishes and it could be hard for them to recover from a disastrous finish. In fact, it could be that the top nine spots could be totally different after the Kansas Race is in the books than they are right now. (It’s not expected, but from this fan’s view it could happen… depending.)
Hey, I know I’m not alone in thinking this, but this fan does hope this race is not a fuel mileage race, (although it very well could be again, just as it was in June.) There is the likelihood there will be long green flag runs and that the strategies coming from the crew chiefs will play a major role on Sunday afternoon. Track position will be just as important as fuel mileage all day long and, like I said earlier, this race could very well be won by someone other than one of the Chasers. I will stick my neck way out and say this, though… if it is, they had to beat the Chasers to do it…
*****************************Two Buck Themes ad ******************************** MUSIC MAKES IT BETTER =>> Get 5 new themes, video tutorials each month for $10 ***************************************************************************************** The Monster Mile at Dover left its mark on the top twelve contenders in the Chase for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship. Shaking up the points a bit was only part of the story as the day was a struggle for some but there’s one thing it wasn’t… it wasn’t a fuel mileage race. Even though several of the teams did experience problems, mistakes on pit road and often changing track conditions (mostly due to the differences of rubber in the racing groove), the points race tightened up, at least in the top nine spots.
The biggest losers on the day (as far the Chasers) were Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski. All of them finished twentieth or worse and that was not what any of them wanted or needed. With these four finishing where they did, it helped tighten up the points, (at least somewhat), and makes the coming weekend in Kansas all the more interesting.
From this fan’s view, Jimmie Johnson appeared to be about the only Hendrick or Hendrick associated team that had any kind of handle on the concrete Monster and he finished second to Kurt Bush. Things may have turned out a bit different if it hadn’t been for two cautions close to each other near the end of the race and he did lead the most laps. Compared to him, the rest of the Hendrick teams struggled all weekend and Sunday afternoon was no different.
In my opinion, it appears the Hendrick engineers have a little work to do on their concrete surface setups. The problem with that statement is that Jimmie Johnson ran well. I’m guessing the rest of the teams are wondering why he was hooked up so well and they weren’t. I’m also guessing there will be some figuring going on amongst the engineers and the crew chiefs in the days ahead.
Although the finishing order for the race was part of the puzzle, the biggest shift took place in the points of the top twelve. Even though Jeff Gordon dropped four places in the points, he still closed the gap slightly points-wise bringing him to within nineteen points of leaders, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards. Brad Keselowski had a few problems during the race and he dropped three places to sixth. Tony Stewart dropped two places to third, Kyle Bush dropped two places to eighth and Dale Jr dropped two places to tenth. The biggest gains were made by both Kurt Bush and Jimmie Johnson. They both gained five spots each putting them fourth and fifth in the points battle.
A quick look at the finishing order did show there are more than just Chasers running well and Kasey Kahne finally had a finish that matched his overall performance in the race and he finished fourth on the day. Teammates AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose both finished in the top ten along with Clint Bowyer.
Denny Hamlin is continuing his struggle for the 2011 season. He didn’t have a stellar day but nothing really major happened and he did finish eighteenth. That means he didn’t loose a lot of ground on those ahead of him in the Chase, but from this fan’s view, he is pretty much relegated to finishing twelfth in the Chase. He is only sixty-eight points behind, but with the different points system this year, that is a lot of ground to make up. I kinda feel for his fans, but sometimes in racing you just go through a bad stretch. It looks like the 2011 season is one of those for him and his fans can only hope his luck either turns around quickly or, at the very least, it doesn’t carry over into next year. Some would call this a character building time and it remains to be seen how he and the #11 team come away from this.
I have to agree with the assessment of many and the the way they said this year’s Chase would go. More than one said early on this Chase would go right down to the last race in Homestead before the Championship was decided. I’m not going to go that far just yet, but I will say depending on how things shape up over the next two to three weeks, they could be absolutely right.
The Chase this year has been an interesting one indeed and I don’t expect much to change over the next week or two. It is possible, someone, (in fact anyone), could hit a hot streak, rack up a lot of points and put all of this speculation in the rear view mirror. From this fan’s view though, I don’t expect that to happen for many reasons but the biggest are because the competition is just too tight and there are a few unknowns still out there.
The next couple of races are good tracks for more than one or two drivers and I expect the unexpected for them. A little later in the Chase, there is still that new surface and renovation of the Phoenix track. If there is a game changer in the mix of the final races for the Chase, it could very well be that one…
********************************************************************************************* Chase race number two for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series didn’t really go as I expected except for one thing and that was that it was a fuel mileage race right down to the wire (which I did say it would be in my pre-race article.) Now, let me remind you, I’m not bragging but it does feel good to be right more often than it does to be wrong.
I don’t have to point this out (but I will) and that is the fact, Tony Stewart waited all year to win a race and now he has won the first two Chase races. A few weeks ago he was lamenting how poorly they were running and they weren’t likely to do well in the Chase (even if they made it) and now he sits atop the standings in the run for the 2011 Cup Championship and even though his lead is slim in points, he is one that absolutely has to be considered as one of the major contenders for the Championship.
I am somewhat surprised at how many people are complaining about the number of fuel mileage races there have been this year. Another surprising complaint is how those that complain, in particular, seem to think NASCAR should do something about it and that the race should not be decided on fuel strategy. (It strikes this fan as peculiar when all the rest of the time these same folks complain that NASCAR tries to alter the outcome of a race by throwing debris cautions and now it sounds as if they want them to throw a caution so the race won’t be decided by strategy.)
Let me just say, I do understand what they are saying, but, I do think the strategy for fuel and tires is just part of the overall picture when it comes to racing in NASCAR these days. Yeah, I understand what they’re saying, (especially when the driver I would rather see win loses because of a late race caution which alters his track position by erasing a large lead or some other advantage he may have acquired because of an extended green flag run.) But I also understand that fuel mileage is not a result of some miraculous or hidden agenda, or because one make has an advantage over the others (although there is that possibility even though NASCAR tries its level best to keep things as even as possible). It is a calculated item and the engine builders and crew chiefs figure what they need to accomplish with the amount of fuel they have and yet perform well and then they put it in the hands of the drivers to “save” all they can and still be at the front with fuel still in the tank when the checkered flag falls.
I guess I just don’t see what is wrong with fuel mileage deciding the result of a race. From my view, it makes the end of the race just as dramatic and just as much a mystery until all of them drive across the finish line. I mean, over the last two races we have witnessed a large difference in the finishing order over what it might have been just a lap or two earlier. If you don’t think it is dramatic, just ask those that have run out of fuel and lost a bunch of spots and points on those last two laps.
(Uh… can anyone say, Denny Hamlin?) He has to be one of the most disappointed drivers actually in the Chase with the kind of things he has suffered in the 2011 season. I’m sure he and his team are looking over their shoulders to see what lurks there. If it can go wrong, it has gone wrong for them this year, (and unless something big happens, I just don’t see them anywhere in the mix for the Championship at all.)
His teammate, Kyle Bush, didn’t have a great day either, but he did manage to pick a few spots back up from last week’s terrible performance. It seems to this fan, history repeats itself as he is struggling in the openers for the Chase. I don’t expect him to continue struggling every week, but id nothing else, it does make the conversation interesting when it comes to his chances for winning his first Cup Championship.
Jeff Gordon and the #24 team did exactly what they needed to do to get back in the hunt and, if it hadn’t been for running out of gas at the time for their last pit stop, had an excellent chance to win Chase Race two. As it was, he could only pull off a fourth place finish, but a top five made up for last weeks poor finish and moved them up six places in the standings. He is another one that has to be considered as one of the major contenders along with Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick, in particular, to unseat Jimmie Johnson from his dominance of the last five years at Chase time.
Here’s another fact I know I don’t need to mention, but, Brad Keselowski had another top five finish to add to his illustrious last two months. To this fan, he has to be the biggest surprise for, first, making the Chase and second, for where he is in the points right now. When summer started, it didn’t look as if he was going to even make the Chase and now, he sits in the third spot, just waiting for someone above him to stumble for a week or two. If that happens, don’t be surprised to see him as one of the drivers to beat when it comes close to Homestead in November for the final race for the coveted Sprint Cup. If things continue on as they have lately for him, he just might be on top by a few points…
After the race Monday at Chicagoland the pressure is on those in the top twelve that had a less than good finish to have a good finish at Loudon. That’s not to say anyone is out of it yet, but some have made it a bit harder on themselves. Some ran out of fuel and finished poorly and others just struggled all day and now have to make up points and places before they get too far behind.
There is something about the Loudon track that makes the race this weekend a pivotal one and it is absolutely necessary for those that did have a bad day at Chicago to make up the lost ground this weekend or face being labeled, “also-rans.” Yeah, I know I’m repeating myself somewhat at the moment, but with the challenge the Magic Mile presents the competitors, it is a make or break race.
Anyone even vaguely familiar with this track knows it is pretty much a flat track and it is hard to pass. Other than having a car that outperforms the rest of the field, the winner this weekend will have to depend on their crew to gain them as many positions as they can on every pit stop or at least maintain their track position.
Just in case you didn’t notice during the last practice session, there is only about a half second separating the fastest from the slowest and if that doesn’t spell pressure and intensity for the limited number of laps, I really don’t know what does. I expect the drivers to press for every position they can as quickly and as aggressively as they can. It is a well know fact when the pressure is on, drivers have a tendency to be a bit impatient and that means emotions will be running high on Sunday afternoon.
If you don’t believe there is a lot on the line this weekend, consider what happened during the qualifying session. The threat of rain was prevalent throughout the session and when the skies did finally open up a bit, there were some major elevated stress levels as the last five cars waited to qualify.
Of course this is old news to most of you, but you did notice the mind games being played by those that actually qualified better than even they expected and they didn’t want to see NASCAR call the qualifying and let the last five start up front based on their speeds in the first practice. Most of the ones that were concerned were those previously mentioned as ones that qualified better than they expected and they would have been doomed to starting much further back in the pack if the qualifying had been cancelled. As it turned out, the wait hurt some of those last five and others did as best they could with the slightly different track conditions they had to work with. Probably the biggest loser was Juan Montoya and he did struggle on his qualifying lap.
Do I think NASCAR made a wise choice to continue the qualifying after the light rain dampened the track? I have to admit, even though it was a difficult choice, it was the right one and it only proves once again, that in NASCAR competition the cream always rises to the top. Considering how things turned out and had the light rain not fallen, I really do think there was a possibility those last five might have qualified better than they did, but other than Montoya, didn’t fare all that bad. Ryan Newman had the fastest car in the first practice session and ended up sitting on the pole anyway, even after the rain, track dryers and the wait.
Today’s race is going to be fast and intense with long green flag runs and lots of strategy. The problem is, most everything from a strategy standpoint was tried last time, so I don’t think there will be many surprises, if any. It is my opinion the winner will come from the top qualifiers and very likely one of the Chasers. I have a couple of favorites, but I won’t go into that right now. I just know the race is going to be a good one and it could be another fuel mileage battle right down to the wire, just like last week.
From my view, this is one race that Kyle Bush and Jeff Gordon have to finish at or near the top in. Both struggled a bit in Chicago and, Gordon in particular, struggled more than the rest of the twelve Chasers. Sure I know Denny Hamlin had an extremely bad day also, but, with the year he has had, I can’t say it was unexpected. From this fan’s view, he is just having one of those years and it seems no matter what they try, something comes up and they end up with a bad finish. Look, I’m not saying it is over for him because we all know that sometimes racing luck turns on a dime. That could happen for him and even though I know there is that possibility, I just don’t see it happening… but then again….
*******************************Two Buck Themes ad ********************************** MUSIC MAKES IT BETTER =>> Get 5 new themes, video tutorials each month for $10 ********************************************************************************************* It’s two to go to make the show and NASCAR Cup teams that are in the hunt for getting into the Chase are going to be doing all they can over the next two races to make it happen. I don’t often like to repeat myself, but, I just couldn’t contain myself. It may be hard to believe, but the 2011 NASCAR season is winding down to its last two weeks for teams to make it into the Chase and for those that have even an outside chance, winning over the next two weekends becomes more important than ever.
There are only a handful of teams that have a realistic chance, but the possibilities of success or failure are many and diverse. With six teams already locked in, that leaves only six spots unclaimed and, for a couple of those spots to be given up, a major disaster would have to happen to somone. Performance is one of the keys for teams to get or keep their spots and no one, particularly those in ninth through twelfth, can afford to have a bad weekend. Winning is the other key for all that are in, or hope to be in, the Chase and that makes these two races as important as any. Add to all of that the challenges of the track at Atlanta and it appears this weekend is one that has absolutely more drama in store for drivers, their teams and fans. The tension and stress levels are high going into this weekend and I expect they won’t let up until either the field is set after Richmond next week for some or, when the race tonight in Atlanta ends and getting into the Chase is no longer a possibility for others.
Atlanta is a track that most of the Cup drivers love to race on. It is also one of the fastest, (if not the fastest track) NASCAR Sprint Cup teams see only once a year now instead of twice. For a mile-and-a-half track there is really none more challenging than this one. In listening to the commentators, crew chiefs and drivers talk about the track, many are of the opinion the track changes almost every lap. Some say it is one of the hardest tracks to anticipate what and when a change is going to take effect and it seems that whatever you think it should or might do, something totally different takes place. Many seem to like the track for this reason; simply because it is so unpredictable and challenging.
From this fans view, just the fact that the track is so fast and has multiple grooves for racing makes it a race with a great deal of unknowns and intensity. One important thing to remember is that this is one of the last two races drivers and teams have to make the Chase. It is my opinion that alone will make it more intense that it would normally be and with so much riding on this night race I expect the level of competition to be raised to the next level as well.
With all of the people that seem to have something to prove tonight, it could prove to be a night where the complete unexpected happens. Personally, I think after a checking the top ten starters tonight, anyone of them could win. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say just about anyone in the top thirty-six have a good chance, depending on how the cards fall over the course of the night. In reality, I don’t think some could win, but if certain things happen (like that divine intervention I mentioned before), it is possible someone from that far back in the lineup could win.
This is one race where I definitely pick how they ran in the second practice over how they qualified or unloaded off the truck. Although a Toyota won the pole, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Bush didn’t really look that strong in the second practice. That makes this fan wonder how they will fare over the extended green flag runs expected tonight. The Fords and Chevys definitely occupied my attention and, of course, who knows what the Dodge of Brad Keselowski will do. With the tear he’s been on over the last four weeks, I just don’t think he can be ruled out of being chosen as a possible winner.
Mother Nature is going to figure into the race as much as anything is tonight. From this fan’s view, we already know the drivers are going to have to find the consistently fastest way around the track tonight and since there is the threat of rain, it is likely the competition could be fast and furious from the drop of the green flag. Other than the weather; tires, fuel mileage and of course mistake free pitting will have the next biggest impact, (in no particular order.)
Of those that need to win, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer looked strong and either one could pull off exactly that. Both showed a lot of consistency over the second practice session and it goes without saying both need a win in the worst way. Of the two, I would pick Stewart to win but I’m not sure how Bowyer will do, considering how the RCR teams have been running lately. I’m sure there is a little bit of mixed emotion running through their camp at the moment.
Other than those all ready mentioned, I have to say Jeff Gordon is my real pick to win tonight. With the strength he’s shown over the last several weeks and his obvious determination, he has about as good a chance at making the trip to Victory Lane as anyone tonight, that is if the weather holds…
*******************************Two Buck Themes ad ********************************** MUSIC MAKES IT BETTER =>> Get 5 new themes, video tutorials each month for $10 ********************************************************************************************* The big question has already been answered about the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona this weekend. That question was how the different drivers were going to handle the “Two Car Draft”, (some call it “the Two Car Tango”), but it was answered before they got to Daytona this week. Many had already started planning their strategy a couple of weeks ago and most had already chosen their partners for drafting before unloading their cars off the haulers. It still remains to be seen how that strategy plays out simply because “stuff” happens in restrictor plate racing that can’t be forseen and this fan doesn’t see this night race at the super speedway being any different.
The next big question was wondering who would actually sit on the pole and that was answered Friday in the late afternoon and early evening. Mark Martin was fastest and took his fiftieth career pole in NASCAR Cup. He and the Daytona 500 winner for 2011, Trevor Bayne, will make up the front row. Yeah, I know many, (including myself), downplay the importance of qualifying on a regular basis but I do find it interesting that a fifty two year old and a twenty year old make up the front row. (Some have even said it is the old and new of it.)
From this fan’s view, after observing the practice session and qualifying (even though qualifying doesn’t tell us anything about the way the race will go), I don’t see this race being that much different than the race in February. The track is still smooth and still has a lot of grip according to the drivers. And it is very obvious it will be two-by-two unless someone discovers how to go faster in groups of three or four.
I look forward to this race with mixed emotions and it is my opinion the two car draft has changed restrictor plate racing completely. Now, when I say mixed emotions, I’m not saying they are negative emotions, I’m just saying restrictor plate racing is different than it was. In some ways, I kinda miss the big packs and watching them swap positions lap after lap. It seemed there was little to distract those watching because, at any moment, someone in that large pack of cars could get just a little squirrely and suddenly there would be mayhem and a bunch of spinning and sliding cars often changing the possible outcome of the race.
The “big one” usually affected more than just those close to the action, it affected anyone that couldn’t get out of the way. In those big packs, it could have been a contender, or someone with no chance of winning, that was taken completely out of contention and it didn’t matter which number was on the side of the car or who was driving.
With the two car draft, there is still a lot of action and they still run in packs. The difference is, (at least from my view), there is a bit of separation and when one of the twosomes get a run, they seem to blow by everyone and then they hit a wall. Of course you know I’m not talking about a literal wall (at least, most of the time) but a wall of air that seems to slow their progress and let’s someone else take over until they hit that same momentum killer.
In this case, momentum is key and that is what makes the end of the race so interesting. The teams have to time their move just right if they want to win. A great example of this was the race at Talladega in the spring. With eight of the contenders finishing four abreast and only thousandths of a second apart at the finish line, to me that says the finish at Daytona tonight could be one of the most exciting in recent history, including the race in February and the one at Talladega.
So that begs what I call the final question… Which of the groups of two will be crossing the line first to take the checkers? (Wow, I have to admit, you do ask hard questions.)
I have listened to several during the week talk about who should win because statistics say they should. Personally, I’m a little weary of listening to statistics because this is restrictor plate racing, plain and simple, and anything can and usually does happen.
Just because someone has done well in the past and has won or finished in the top five over the last several trips to a restrictor plate track doesn’t really mean that much to this observer. There are simply too many variables when it comes to this type of racing. That is why you see someone like a Trevor Bayne win the 2011 Daytona 500 in only his second start in a Cup car and only a day or two after his twentieth birthday.
So does that mean I’m discounting the possibility of someone like Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon or Dale Jr winning simply because they usually run well at restrictor plate tracks? Of course not; what I’m saying is, just because they usually run well, or because the statistics say they should run well, doesn’t mean they will. When it comes down to the end of the race tonight, we could see a first time winner on a restrictor plate track, or we could see someone that has won before… uh, statistically speaking that is…