Chase Race Four at Kansas from a NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanUnpredictable… 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…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 8, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Monster Leaves Its Mark on the Chase – from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanThe 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…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 5, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Chase Race Two After Thoughts from A NASCAR Fans View

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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…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 27, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Chase Race Two at Loudon From A NASCAR Fans View

Rusty NormanAfter 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….

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 25, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Sprint Cup Night Racing at Atlanta from a NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanIt’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…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 4, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Daytona from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanThe 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…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 2, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Kansas From A Fans View

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Rusty NormanKansas in early June is quite a bit different than Kansas in September or October. Many already know that, but what will be the biggest difference this weekend? That’s a great question and one that will only be answered by the cars taking to the track on Sunday afternoon. We already know it’s going to be hot and humid but how the tires help or hinder the cars this weekend is a bit of an unknown. If things go as usual, the tires will be the least of the worries the teams have but the heat and humidity may be a little bit more difficult to deal with.

I think the heat will make a difference and a big one as the NASCAR Cup teams hit the track Sunday and one of the biggest problems will be keeping the drivers cool. In my opinion, racing in the heat of the day in the Midwest will prove a challenge to the drivers and the engines and whether or not they last through the shear torture will determine the one that ends up in Victory Lane.

From this fan’s view, the Hendrick teams didn’t qualify well and even though they were able to post some fast times to enter into qualifying, they still appear to be struggling. Mark Martin qualified best for the Hendrick teams but placed in the eighteenth position. It only got worse from there for the other three with Jeff Gordon 22nd, Dale Jr, 28th and Jimmie Johnson 31 st. Of course we all know it isn’t how a car qualifies, it is how it races over a number of laps before having to pit, but from my view, it appears the Hendrick teams could have a mediocre day ahead of them unless they can run strong over the long haul and consistently move forward through the pack.

I have to admit, especially the way things have been going for him lately, Kurt Bush winning the pole was a complete surprise to me, (and I would be willing to bet, no matter what he says, he was surprised, too.) He turned his lap early in the the qualifying session and it did stand the test of the the other competitors, which could very well tell us something about how the race is going to go tomorrow. That’s not to say he will win, but it could mean even the Dodges have a chance.

Greg Biffle hopes to break out of his run of bad luck and Kansas is one of his better tracks. He may not have qualified well, but he was very confident in the way his car was going to race. He and Carl Edwards are favored by many to win the STP 400 and it could be, the Roush Fords rule the day again. I think the Fords are looking mighty tough and it could be a very strong day for all of the Fords.

Something that really sticks out at me is the way all of the different teams qualified. Some of the faster cars from the practice sessions didn’t really show that much speed in qualifying and ones that were slower in practice ended up surprisingly higher in the lineup. Whether or not that situation remains as obvious on race-day will only be known after the race is over.

One thing that all will have to deal with will be the condition of the track simply because of the afternoon heat. I expect the biggest complaint from the drivers will be they have no grip and I also think they are going to drive their crew chiefs crazy asking for more bite off the turns. Although it is true the track is wide and has sweeping turns, it also has only minimal banking in those turns and that should prove to make the racing interesting. The sealer they use to fill in the cracks in the asphalt bothers many, if not most, of the drivers and the ones that can adapt to the slippery feel caused by that sealer will move toward the front on a consistent basis throughout the afternoon, at least in my opinion. In the same way, others will simply do all they can to try and stay on the lead lap and hope for the best.

It is hard for me to decide who I think will actually win this weekend. The obvious choices are powered by the Ford FR9 engine and we have already talked about how well the Roush Fords are expected to do simply because they usually run well on the mile and a half ovals.

Whether or not that will hold true remains to be seen, but I also have to say, we haven’t even talked about the Toyotas yet. Kyle Bush is definitely one to be considered to take the checkered flag Sunday afternoon along with the possibility of either of the Michael Waltrip teams of David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. Truex qualified 8 th and Reutimann way back in the lineup just after Jeff Gordon in 23 rd. Both were much happier with their racing setup than their qualifying setups, so I have to assume one or both of them do have a chance to win.

Even though they look slow and I have already talked abut how they seem to be missing speed, any one of the Hendrick teams could end up in Victory Lane at the end of the STP 400. Jeff Gordon definitely needs a good finish and he usually does well at Kansas. From this fan’s view, it would not surprise me at all to see either him or Dale Jr taking the win. Is it a long shot, at least for Jeff? Yeah probably, but it wouldn’t be the first time he was a long shot and pulled it off.

As for Dale Jr, well… I just think he and his crew chief, Steve Letarte are just due to win one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 4, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR All-Star After Thoughts From A Fans View

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Say what you will, but even though Carl Edwards didn’t win all the segments Saturday night, he did dominate the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In fact, from this fan’s view, after the first segment, there was little doubt in my mind he was going to win his first million dollar race. Oh I know it’s easy for me to say now, but in all honesty, even though Greg Biffle looked strong in the first part, there was hardly any doubt in my mind the race was going to be between Kyle Bush and Carl Edwards.

At the risk of sounding like a disgruntled fan, (which I’m not), even though there was a lot of hype leading up to the Saturday night, almost no holds barred event, I felt this was one of the more dull All-Star races, at least in my recent memory. Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t a good race; I’m just saying it was kinda uneventful. Though there was always the hope something might happen, it seemed to me, there were faster cars and slower ones and once they got sorted out, they mostly played follow the leader.

From my view, the only times the race was really exciting was during the double file restarts and once again, after they got sorted out, (which didn’t take long), it was mostly follow the leader and a lot of single file laps. Oh, I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but really… I’m not.

I found it interesting, as did others, that the Hendrick and Richard Childress teams performed so poorly. The Childress teams were basically a non-issue for the whole night even though Clint Bowyer started up front. He quickly dropped to the back to hardly be heard from again.

As for the Hendrick teams, well… it is just my opinion, but to me it seems they have been hurting for a thing called “speed” since late in the season last year. At no time recently have they been the dominating factor the were in the past. Yes, I know they’re all running okay, but they just don’t seem to have the horsepower or the handling to run with the Fords and Toyotas.

Speaking of the Fords, the Roush Fords are looking pretty tough. They have certainly gotten their mile and a half track program down and it looks like they are still wanting to make a statement with their FR-9 engines. Since they (and all of the Fords) have switched over to that engine, they have been showing some muscle and Carl Edwards, in particular, has made it known by his performance he is ready to challenge Jimmie Johnson for the Championship this year.

Matt Kenseth has also been quietly making a statement of his own and one has to wonder if he isn’t going to be challenging Johnson and Edwards during the Chase also. From this fans view, he has always been one to quietly move toward the front by the end of a race, (especially recently), and I think it has a lot to do with the FR-9 engine, too. Yeah, I know he has also struggled a bit, but I do think he is back to that quiet confidence that says, “Hey, you can ignore me for a while, but just wait… you’re gonna be staring at my bumper, a lot and soon.”

Unfortunately, Greg Biffle has had some fast cars, but just hasn’t been able to put a whole race together yet. This fan thinks the time for him to win is coming soon and it may not be just one and done. He may end up with two or three victories on the season and I am sure he is ready for it to start anytime now.

David Ragan has also had fast cars but hasn’t been able to put together his end game. I’m not saying he won’t, and he has been qualifying and running consistently good, but they just haven’t shown that end of the race strength yet.

There are those of the opinion the Childress and Hendrick teams were using this last weekend as a test session for this coming weekend. I believe that is a possibility, but not too likely. When they saw how outclassed they were by the Roush Fords it may have turned into a test session, but I don’t see any of them turning down the chance to take home a million dollars just so they can possibly run better in the longest race of the year.

With the 600 coming this weekend, if the other teams don’t show up with something better than they did for the All Star race, it could be another dominating Roush Ford night this coming weekend and a very long 600 miles for everyone else…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 24, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR at Darlington from A Fans View

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Darlington… it has a history and it is well known amongst NASCAR fans everywhere. It is narrow and a little under a one and half mile oval (actually around one and a third mile) and the nicknames given it over time are, “the Lady in Black” as well as the track “Too Tough To Tame.” You don’t have to believe me when I tell you, but you can ask any of the drivers, it lives up to both of those. It was built in 1949 and, as many know already, it is known as the first “super-speedway” in NASCAR. It has long been known as a driver’s track and the fastest way around it on a consistent basis is around the top right up against the wall.

Some say, aside from the faster speed, the real reason they run up so close to the wall is in case something goes wrong, their contact with the wall won’t cause as much damage to their car and they will hopefully be able to continue without too much trouble. As a fan, I have long heard the commentators talk about the drivers earning their “Darlington stripe” and that particular comment is still used today.

Sure, I know there are those that don’t know much about the track, but that’s only because they haven’t been around NASCAR very long. Though it is a challenge, the drivers really like to race on the historical track that has a well known history of being exactly that… a challenge. It tests them and their abilities “to the max.”

From this fan’s view, one thing that just might make tonight’s race more interesting than normal is the fact that much of practice was rained out on Friday. Sure, the Cup teams did get to spend some time on the track, but whether or not it was enough time to get a grip on on the tires Goodyear brought this year is still an unknown. Some worked on their race setup and some worked on their qualifying setup in the little time they spent on the track and, from my view, we really won’t know who has the best setup until they put in some race laps. Personally, I think that is why the possible contenders for the win won’t really be known until about half way and after a few pit stops for adjustments.

That being said, there are several drivers that just perform well at Darlington and I expect them to be in contention from the start, even though it may take a bit for them to get their cars the way they need them to be. From my view that is the real unknown – the thing that is going to make this race at the track “Too Tough To Tame” more interesting than normal.

So… who are the drivers I’m thinking generally do well at Darlington and probably will again tonight? Well, there are several and just because they generally do well doesn’t mean they will. Some to watch will be names like Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. Others I think will have a good night will be Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush, Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger. (Of course, there are those that hope Dale Jr will also be around at the end to make some noise, too.)

I can’t help but think they will all make some kind of a statement tonight but there are two I’ve purposely saved until the last. Of course, that would be Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon and both of them have a history of running well at the Lady In Black, in particular, Jeff Gordon. Mark Martin probably doesn’t jump to the front of peoples minds to win tonight, but he is always a threat to come out on top just about anywhere he goes. Of course I’m not saying he is going to be a threat tonight, but I am saying we need to keep an eye on him.

Now, from this fan’s view and with the kind of luck he’s been having, Jeff Gordon may or may not be the one we see leading the pack to the checkers tonight. He is the one that has the most wins entering into tonight’s race and has a very good record at the track. From my view, I think it would be great to see him win tonight, especially with the luck he had last week in Richmond. I’m thinking he and his team a little something to go their way for change and a win tonight would certainly make up for being the wrong place at the right time at RIR.

Even though qualifying times don’t tell us much about tonight’s race, they do tell us which teams had a grip on the different tire and the track when they took the cars off the haulers. The thing they don’t tell us is which team, or teams, are setup for the long green flag runs that I think are inevitable in tonight’s race. Another thing that will most likely figure in at the end of the race will be fuel mileage.

There is no doubt (at least from my view) strategy is going to play a part in who wins tonight and that strategy is going to be for the teams to keep track position… well, that and who has the least of that thing called the “Darlington Stripe… ”

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 7, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR at Richmond After Thoughts from Just A Fan’s View

Well… Richmond lived up to my expectations Saturday night except for the fact that the JGR Toyotas of Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin finished 1-2 with the RedBull Toyota of Kasey Kahne right behind in third on the night. Was I surprised? Well, yeah… but no, not really… I just expected the Chevys to do better than they did and I expected the Hendrick teams to make a bigger statement than they did.

When the Checkered flag finally dropped, Kyle Bush in his Toyota appeared like he dominated the night, (even though he didn’t) and the first Chevy was Clint Bowyer in sixth even after being involved in an accident. I have to tell you, I expected a good race but didn’t think it was going to end anything like it did. It does appear to this fan, the JGR Toyotas have definitely found something they like, and that works, at RIR very well for them.

Too be honest, (and of course from this fan’s view), much like Phoenix earlier this year, if there hadn’t been a big wreck back in the middle of the pack, the end of the race may have been a little different. The person I’m thinking of that would have probably been in there fighting for the win at the end that wasn’t is, Jeff Gordon.

In similar fashion to Carl Edwards being taken out of contention by that wreck in Phoenix earlier this year, Gordon was put on the truck following the incident involving several cars with around one hundred laps to go. He ended up sliding driver’s side first, hard into the inside wall in the incident he had nothing to do with other than being in the wrong place at the right time. Both of them suffered setbacks in the points because of the separate incidents several races apart, but Carl Edwards has rebounded from his incident quite nicely and it still isn’t too late for Gordon to get back into the hunt, IF, he is able stay out of trouble for a while. It has been an up and down year for him, so far, though.

Even though Jimmie Johnson had a very poor start to the weekend, he did manage to salvage an eighth place finish on the night. Of all the Hendrick teams I thought would come away from Richmond with a top ten finish, he was the one I least expected. In reality, I expected Dale Jr to finish well ahead of him, but, as it turned out, Jr finished a disappointing nineteenth, barely in the top twenty and wasn’t involved in any major accidents that I remember. (He just didn’t have a good night… despite the expectations of many.)

The Roush Fords didn’t do too bad, with David Ragan and Carl Edwards finishing fourth and fifth. Greg Biffle still hasn’t shown his usual strength yet and finished a somewhat disappointing fifteenth on the night. From my view, his struggle still seems to be carrying over from last season.

Even Tony Stewart ended up with a fairly good night by finishing ninth even though his Stewart/Haas driver/teammate Ryan Newman and Juan Montoya had some on-track disagreements and both of them ended the night twentieth and twenty-ninth respectfully. I don’t know what’s going on with them, but from this fans view, they do have a negative history between them and we all know Juan’s reaction to a little bumping is generally a bump returned with a vengeance on whoever bumps him before the race is over, even if it is incidental contact, like it appeared it was with Newman earlier in the race. (In fact, from my view, it looked a whole lot more like Montoya got into him more than Newman got into Montoya… but, then, the drivers usually do see things differently from their perspective…)

As I said earlier, I really didn’t expect the Toyotas to do as well as they did and to be honest, I didn’t expect Denny Hamlin to be near the front either. Yeah, I know he won two races to start off the weekend in Richmond, but his Cup ride hasn’t been going all that well.

Two of the three Toyotas in the JGR camp have been struggling for most of this first part of the year. Although we all know one race doesn’t make a season, I can’t help but think about how the Bush brothers did last year during the month of May and, if Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have a similar month this year, it could very well be the Joe Gibbs teams will come out of May in a lot better shape than even they hope. Then again, it just may have been a good weekend at Richmond for them and nothing else may change. I reckon we’ll just have to wait and see on that one…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 3, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR “Push-Drafting” at Talladega from Just A Fans View

Rusty NormanDrafting… NASCAR fan’s have heard it talked about and known about it for a long time. If you’ve been a fan of NASCAR for any length of time, you probably remember when it was just called drafting? It seems the more they race at restrictor plate tracks that require the drivers to use it to be competitive, the more they come up with new ways of doing it and new names to describe it. (Uh, and they also go faster when they use the techniques, too.)

Early on, it was described as riding along in the draft, soon adapted to a term called freight-training and then the term “slingshot” began to be used to describe how a driver would use the draft to pass. Later on, to better describe the way the drivers raced each other to gain an advantage on the restrictor plate tracks in particular, terms were added to describe other facets of this thing called, “drafting.”

In case you’re new to NASCAR or just not familiar with some of the terms I’m talking about at the moment, let me mention a few. (I’m sure you’ve heard them mentioned at one time or another.) Bump-drafting, side-drafting and the newest addition would be, “push-drafting.” All of them describe a way the drivers have discovered to gain speed while racing on restrictor plate tracks, (or, at least where drafting comes into play), and they have proven time and again, it is almost impossible to win without using drafting to their advantage in one way or another.

When this new thing called “push-drafting” was first shown to work by Denny Hamlin and another driver a while back, many wondered what in the world they were doing. Since that time, it has proven to be one of the most important things to be used by the competitors at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. The interesting thing about it is it only works in groups of two. Anything else makes the cars go slower.

I find it interesting, that now, they have quickly adapted new ways of using this “push-drafting” process. They now have multiple channels on their radios so they can communicate with more than just their crew and teammates. Some have many channels to be able to communicate with many other drivers and some have a limited number so they won’t have to spend a lot of time finding different partners. (I guess you could say they don’t want to be distracted.) One thing I have noticed in listening to the drivers talking about the process, the responsibilities of the “pusher” and the “pushee” are different; Unless they both do their job, the result can be disastrous.

Just one more thing about the “push-draft.” It does require a lot trust between the two drivers that are hooked up together. The one in the front has to make sure he keeps the two cars together and he has to be the eyes. The one in back has to trust that the one in front makes all the right decisions, (that is, until they go for the checkered flag at the end of the race.) Most of the reason for that is they can’t see. All they can see is the spoiler in front of them.

As a fan, I noticed an interesting thing during qualifying. I know it was more of an optical illusion than anything else, but it just looked like like the cars were going so slow. Even at 170 plus miles per hour, when there is only one car on the track at a time, there is nothing to show how fast they are actually going and it is for certain there isn’t much action. Of course, all of us know that keeping the movement of the car down to a minimum so they don’t scrub off a lot of speed. The less movement the faster the qualifying time.

As I have said many times here on Just A Fan’s View, qualifying is more for pit selection than anything else at a restrictor plate race and, honestly, qualifying today at Talladega will tell us almost nothing about how the race will go on Sunday afternoon. More than anything else it will be decided by who hooks up with whom and how fast they go around the track together.

As a NASCAR fan, you know a restrictor plate race is one of the hardest to pick a winner in and this one will be no different. From this fans view, I know this will be one of the most stressful races the drivers have to face and with the “push-draft” it will be even more stressful than normal. They have more to think about and more possible distractions than they normally do in one of these type races. With the possible extra radio work there is always the chance the driver will have a good excuse because he causedS the “big one” even if they weren’t talking on the radio anyway…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© April 16, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

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

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

All music by Mike Stewart – “TwoBuckThemes” unless otherwise stated