Nascar At Atlanta: Will Nascar’s Fastest Track Yield Unexpected Results This Time?

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Hi everyone, and welcome to this weeks edition of Just A Fan’s View pre-race look at Atlanta.

Is it possible that the great weather predicted for Atlanta this weekend could foretell of totally unexpected results for the Race on Sunday? I know it is just a coincidence, but, I can’t remember a time I have been in Atlanta and there wasn’t a threat of rain.

Now, to be truthful, I don’t spend a lot of time in Atlanta but it seems that when I have been there on business, or traveled through on my way to somewhere else, it usually rains; (or at least threatens to.) This weekend looks to be a very comfortable and rain-free weekend.

The qualifying for the Kobalt Tools 500 showed, once again, Mark Martin and Kurt Bush have their qualifying game down. I just wonder if they can carry their front row qualifying spots all the way to victory lane. I know both of them know how to win, they just need a few more things to go right on race day. (Neither one of them has had very good ‘racing luck’ over the last few races.)

This week is going to be tough to call just as Las Vegas was last week. You see, as a Nascar devotee and fan I don’t put much stock in they way the drivers qualify. There are times when qualifying does tell a story but, when it comes right down to it, I look at other things.

One thing I watch at Atlanta is who runs consistently in the middle of the track and at the top while maintaining a good consistent lap time. To me, the single lap times, and the first couple of laps on new tires don’t matter much; (unless it is near the end of the race and someone on brand new tires is trying to catch someone on old tires.) I do think the winner this week will prove this out and it will all depend on when and how the yellows come out near the end of the race.

Just A Fan’s View thinks it is better to be watching the times of the drivers during the practices and put less importance on the qualifying times. At Atlanta, the person that consistently finds a line to run faster than the rest is the person that will end up out front, especially as the tires wear out.

That is what I will consider when it comes down to the drivers I pick to finish in the top five, (and unfortunately, I won’t have input from the final practice session before this writing.) I will be paying attention to it though and I know it will make a difference in the finishing order.

I guess rather than drag out this conversation for an extended period time, we should get right to how I think things are going to go this weekend.

If we look at the first practice, we find several that had good practice times and speeds but didn’t qualify all that well. That is just the type thing I am talking about, and looking for, at Atlanta. Let’s just look at few:

  • For the second week in a row Mark Martin finished at the top of the chart in the first practice. He actually followed it up by taking the pole position in qualifying. If he can have a consistent run and avoid the engine failures of the last two weeks, he has a very good chance of finishing out front.
  • Kevin Harvick posted the second fastest practice speed in the first session and has been making strong showings at the first three races this year. He is sure to finish strong if things go as usual for him this weekend.
  • Brian Vickers has been impressive over the first three races this year. He just hasn’t been able to be there  at the end. That could all change this weekend, (and it remains to be seen if the Toyota engine problems show up again this weekend.)
  • I just can’t rule out Kurt Bush this weekend. He has been extremely strong over the first three races and for the second week n a row has qualified on the front row. His practice times weren’t that bad either.
  • This could be the week for Jamie McMurray. Of all the qualifiers, he was the only one that might have beaten Mark Martin out for the pole position. Jamie has also made strong showings every weekend so far this year. He just needs a break or two to go his way and that could be all he needs.

There is one thing I want to point out about qualifying. If you listened closely to the interviews with the drivers after their qualifying runs you heard the top qualifiers say their cars were basically out of control. They may have fast but they were not comfortable. That’s another reason I don’t want to put a lot of stock in the qualifying times for telling who may win the race.  I don’t think a driver wants to drive on the edge for the whole race. They need to have at least a slight comfort level and feel for the car and that could be what makes the biggest difference at the end of the race.

Okay, enough for now. It’s time for the Just A Fan’s View choices for the top five. This is another week that is tough to call but, I’ll give my best shot.

There is no way to rule out at least the possibility of a Roush team finishing up front other Jamie McMurray. If it does happen I think it will be  Greg Biffle although I can never count Carl Edwards out of the mix.

The Hendrick teams could all make a good showing at the end of the race also and that means we have to consider Jimmy Johnson, Dale Jr and Jeff Gordon.

There are a lot of possibilities this weekend, but, here are my picks for the end of the race. I think it is going to be a down to the wire finish.  Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Bush and Greg Biffle are all going to be there mixing it up at the end. As to who is going to win, well, that is a much harder question. Since I have to make a choice right now without the benefit of seeing the second practice session, I going to go way out on a limb and pick Mark Martin to come home with the trophy for the Kobalt Tools 500.

There, I’ve made my choice and all that remains is to see who actually pulls off the victory.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just a Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Update on: Nascar at Las Vegas, the Just A Fan’s View “After Chatter”

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Hey everybody and welcome to the JAFV Las Vegas “After Chatter.”

The name of the game for Sunday’s race in Las Vegas appeared to be “overcoming adversity” (if you had the time). My reasoning for this statement is, many faced adversity during the weekend and if they had time to overcome it, they finished well or, at least, better than they would’ve.  If there wasn’t enough time … they didn’t.

Kyle Bush overcame the adversity of a blown engine before qualifying and having to start at the rear of the field to take the win at Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon. In fact, it seemed that most of the teams that finished in the top ten had to overcome some sort of adversity over the weekend  to finish where they did.

I have to admit I certainly was surprised with Kyle taking the race although I knew he would be a strong contender for the win and figured he would definitely finish in the top five. I just never expected he would be able to make it all the way to the front from the back knowing how hard it has been to pass at Vegas in the past. He did a great job and was much more patient than he was in the Nationwide race on Saturday. Although he had some help from other strong contenders on Sunday, he was right there waiting to pounce on the opportunity and took advantage of it for the win.  (Congratulations to Kyle!)

One thing I will say about Kyle Bush in 2009 and it’s very noticeable; he is definitely more patient than in the past (a sign he is maturing quickly as a driver) and that could put him right at the top of the standings at the end of the year, (and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the teams if it does pan out that way.) Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am sure he is going to be in The Chase and one of the ones to beat for the championship.

It seemed to this fan that several of the drivers went into a slight self – destruct mode while making pit stops this weekend. Some were charged with speeding and others just  flat blew their entry into the pits and  their pit stalls when it counted most. (Maybe I should say, when it counted against them the most.)

One thing was certainly noticeable for the entire weekend. During the races of both series, more than one person had trouble with the entry to the pits. It seemed that it was hard to get ‘whoa’d up’ before the beginning of the timing of the pit entry speed. It burned more than a few. (I’ll give a little  more of my opinion about this situation a little later.)

Just for a minute, let’s take a look at some of  the other top finishers.

  • Clint Bowyer used fuel strategy and a slightly better handling car to take the second spot.
  • Jeff Burton finished third and it just goes to show, if you keep on showing up and doing the best you can, good things happen.
  • David Reutimann also had his own set of adversities to overcome, started in the back and finished fourth for the day. It looked pretty bleak when his car developed an oil leak during the race, but they had the time to bounce back from that, too.
  • Bobby Labonte stuck it out and his team performed well as they took the fifth spot. They surprised a lot of people and that’s a good thing heading for Atlanta.
  • Jeff Gordon started twenty-eighth, worked his way to the front and broke the 20,000 laps led barrier. He looked to be a contender for the win but blew his left front tire after blowing the entry to pit road. He finished sixth even with part of his left front fender missing.
  • Greg Biffle had a strong car, but the problems with the Roush engines that affected Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Carl Edwards, caused him to run conservatively possibly costing him a chance to win.
  • Brian Vickers finished eighth and was part of the Toyota engine situation for the weekend.
  • Jamie McMurray ran another strong race but had his own set of  problems as well as running another one of those Roush engines.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr did a great job of overcoming adversity on Sunday. After blowing the entry to pit road and going a lap down he managed to fight back for a tenth place finish which takes a little of the qualifying pressure off him as Nascar heads on to Atlanta.

Other notables that JAFV has been watching with interest are Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart.

  • Marcos just can’t seem to catch a break, but has made strong showings at all of the first three races. I expect to see him in the top five more than once in the weeks and months ahead.
  • Mark Martin has a strong car and team and, if some of the unusual things stop jumping up and biting them, look out … it could mean several wins for him this year and a place in The Chase as well as possibly taking his first Nascar Cup Championship.
  • Tony Stewart and his new team are probably the biggest surprise to Just A Fan’s View this year. I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of his team and like what I see. I don’t think anyone (except Tony and his teams) expected them to perform so well right out of the box. He is only one of the “feel good” stories so far this year. Don’t count him out of contention, his 26th place finish this week was just a little misleading.

Okay, let’s jump back to the trouble with entering into Pit Road for a minute. I don’t have a lot to say about it except, with all of the problems experienced by the racers this last weekend, I am sure Nascar will at least take a look at the situation before the next race at Las Vegas. Personally, I think they will look at slightly extending the area to get slowed down to the pit road speed before they start the timing areas. I think it needs a minor adjustment, but, that’s just me …

See ya next time …

Rusty

©March 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Las Vegas: “Just A Fan’s View” Odds Are Vegas Will Be A Down to the Wire Shootout

Click on S3 player below to hear the podcast version of this article.

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Hey everybody and welcome to Just A Fan’s View pre-race chatter for this week.

Judging from the qualifying times, Just A Fan’s View thinks this is going to be an awfully hard race to call, at least before its finished. There are a lot reasons why I think that, but the main one is those qualifying times.

There are so many cars qualified within hundredths of each other that it could either prove to be one of the closest non-restrictor plate races of the year or it could just be another runaway. I am really having trouble deciding who’s gonna win this thing because the cars are so closely matched.

It looks like Goodyear has brought a really good tire and it also seems the drivers think so, too. Judging from the way they qualified, nobody had any hesitation of being committed to throwing themselves into the the turns  and “lettin’ ‘er eat”. The thing that seemed to bother them the most was the bumps down in turns 1 and 2. If it weren’t for them, I think we would have seen even closer qualifying times and more people breaking the track record. Those bumps threw a lot of drivers a curve ball when it came to qualifying. It remains to be seen how they’ll handle them for the race.

The Pole was captured by Kyle Bush with his brother, Kurt, grabbing the outside position of the front row. Were it not for the fact Kyle blew an engine in practice before qualifying, it could have been a blowout by him and a race for second for all the rest. Blowing that engine just means more excitement for us fans because he will be starting in the back on Sunday and we all know he won’t be satisfied staying back there. I look for him to move up through the pack regularly when the race begins and highly expect him to be a contender for the win.

Now…that being said, let’s take a look at some the other drivers that aren’t going to just sit by and wait for him to drive to the front. After finishing first for the first two races of the 2009 season it would be awfully hard to think that Matt Kenseth wouldn’t be right up there fighting for the win at race end. Even though the Roush cars were noticeably slower than many in qualifying, a little thing like that has never kept them from being in the mix for taking the checkered flag.  I look for strong competition to come from the likes of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and yes, David Ragan, too.

A quick look at the top 10 starters shows us just how exciting the end of this race could be. Now, I know that putting too much stock in the way they qualify is a little misleading, but just about anybody in the top 38 could pull out the win.

Just look at some of the drivers that are back in the pack but their qualifying times and speeds are not that far off. It is filled with the likes of  Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr, Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip and Carl Edwards to name just a few. If we just look at the top 32, they are only about 31/2 tenths off the pace or less. The others are only about a half second off the pace.  All of this could change in Saturday’s practice,however.

Some of the surprises  to me are David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. Not that I don’t think them very capable but it is a little different to see them in the top five qualifiers. Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Kasey Kane and Ryan Newman all qualified in the top ten and any one of them could be taking the checkered flag at the end of the race.

Probably the most controversial thing to come up after qualifying was the way that Nascar addresses a car being pulled out of  line and being sent to the rear for one reason or another.  The way they do it just moves the cars forward in the line the car is removed from. Many of us familiar with the Saturday night way of doing things are used to seeing the crossover of positions so that the qualifiers are basically still in order according to speed.

Kyle Bush having to pull out of the Pole position and going to the back actually puts the third fastest qualifier, Jimmy Johnson, ahead of the second fastest, Kurt Bush, in doing it the Nascar way which some think unfair.  I personally like the crossover realignment but I do understand the other way, also. Besides, it is Nascar’s decision and they have been doing it that way for a long time. Still, sometimes looking at changing things around is not a bad thing either.

Well…that brings us  to the hard part this week. Who is going to win?

Honestly, this is a hard one for me to call. I’m writing this without any input from the Saturday final practice, but I’ll give my opinion anyway, (as I always do.)

This week, I see a lot of possibilities. Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin and a host of others. Wow, this is tough but I’m going to pick somebody that is probably unexpected by many. I think it is going to come down to a shootout at the end with about five drivers. Kyle Bush, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson, Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon. Out of those five I think it’s going to be a race to wire and Jeff Gordon is going to break his winless streak in points racing this weekend in Las Vegas.

I know the odds are against me…but…isn’t that what Las Vegas is all about anyway???

See ya next time…

Rusty

©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Fontana: The “After Chatter” from Just A Fan’s View…

I guess it comes as no surprise that there was at least  a little bit of drama at the end of the race in Fontana. It did, however, come down to a race between two drivers, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon and unless something unexpected happened, they were the only two that really had a chance at winning. Although the last lap wasn’t that exciting, the last several offered just enough doubt as to who was going to win that it did make it worth watching all the way to the end.

Matt Kenseth drove across the finish line and became one of only two drivers to win the first two races of a Nascar season. Considering Matt didn’t have a win last year, I think this would qualify for him having a great start to the new season.

Jeff Gordon finished a very strong second and that was the second week in a row he made a very strong showing.

I have to admit the race was a little better than I thought it would be. It still was not filled with the drama of some races. It did become interesting at the end when it was toss up as to whether Matt or Jeff was going to pull of the win. There was also the fact that Kyle Bush was poised to take advantage of any mistake by either Matt or Jeff and that also added a bit to the drama of the ending of the race.

As a fan, I still have a tendency to lose interest in the middle of the race because, at times, it becomes a follow the leader type of race. It appears to me the drivers are at least willing to just burn up some miles and maintian a certain position. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that part of racing, too. There are very few races 500 miles in length that we find where all of the drivers are running flat out for the 500 miles.

One thing I notice about these type of races is a driver’s intention is to get out front and stay there if possible. Once he is out front, it is easier for him to fall into a rhythm and usually the C.O.T. car handles better out front in clean air.

Michael Waltrip said something interesting in an interview about the C.O.T. that I found interesting. He described the difference of being out front with only a couple of cars in front of him and the difference of being further back in the pack. It seems the more cars you have around you the worse the turbulence and the worse the car handles. That is the important reason why any driver that is able to is going to do as much as he can to get out in the cleaner air and stay there if possible.

All in all, Fontana didn’t have much happen that caused an uproar so there isn’t much to talk about in that area. The only thing that really was going on that made people wonder was whether or not Kyle Bush was going to win all three of  the races for the weekend. He won two of them in one day and had a stellar performance in the cup race on Sunday. I guess he still has something to look forward to putting in the record books someday soon.

Well…California is behind us and it is time to move on to Las Vegas and I’m looking forward to it. We’ll talk more about it later in the week…

See ya next time…

Russ

©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar At Fontana: Pre-race opinion from Just A Fan’s View

Fontana is a track that garners mixed emotions from the fans and here at Just A Fan’s View. On the one hand it is a fast track with turn entry speeds of around 200 mph and on the other it is a place that can either breed boredom over much of the 500 miles or complete dominance by one driver as was proved thus far by Kyle Bush.

It isn’t always a race that holds the attention of the fan from beginning to end. Most of the fans I have talked to recently watch the start of the race and the first 20 or so laps and then basically half listen to it on their TVs or radios while they do other things close by. Of course the fans that are traveling while they listen on Sirius/XM probably pay the closest attention because they can travel a lot of miles while the race progresses.

So far, this has been an interesting beginning to the 2009 season. We saw some great racing during several of the events of Speed Weeks at Daytona, FL and then experienced a slight let down at the finish of the Daytona 500 because of rain. Overall, the consensus of the fans coming out of Daytona has been good with many looking forward to the racing this week.

There has been a little debate sparked because of the no-testing rules and some even think that is why the race at Daytona was so interesting and close. (Personally, I think the racing at Daytona is interesting more because of the restrictor plate than anything else.) Some even think that this week’s race will tell more about how this season will pan out. Fontana is what many call the real beginning of the season.

From my view, this week could prove to be a follow-the-leader type of race if it turns out that one teams has better figured out the setup than the rest. I hope this is not the case because the thing I like most about Nascar racing is the close competition in running for the victory. I really don’t much care for watching a race to see who will finish second. I like those down to the wire, beatin’ and bangin’, don’t know whose gonna win until they cross the finish line races.

In observing the practice sessions, it’s obvious there are few really strong teams looking to get out front as far as they can and lead as many laps as possible. I expect at least one third of the field to finish at least one lap down behind the leaders. I don’t think there will be quite as much drama as there was at Daytona but I do know this is a 500 mile race and anything…let me stress that…anything can happen.

So that brings us to who I think will win this weekend in Fontana.

  • Although Kyle Bush looks very strong and I do think he will be a factor, I don’t think he will win the race.
  • Carl Edwards can’t be ruled out as a contender but he isn’t my choice for first place either.  I do think he will definitely finish in the top 10, perhaps even in the top five, but I just don’t know if they have a good grip on the track as they did last year.
  • Mark Martin looks good and is as confident as I have seen him in recent years, but he’s not my pick for the win. I do think he is going to finish in the top 5 though.
  • Tony Stewart  is strong but I am not sure he is strong enough to win. We have to remember, he is running Hendrick equipment and they do look strong this week.
  • Jeff Gordon is also strong this week and was last week also. The question is, can he beat Jimmy Johnson to the line for the win? I’m just not sure.
  • Jamie McMurray seems to have things clicking this year and has been on track to be leading at the end of the race.  I don’t know that he is going to lead the field across the stripe for the win, but he is looking very strong.
  • Jimmy Johnson is my pick for the win this weekend. His team has looked strong in practice and qualifying.  I do think it is going to depend on  how his equipment holds up and how things go near the end with pit-stops and who has the freshest set of tires.

It is my opinion that tires are going to make the biggest difference at the end of the race and, of course, there is always that “fuel mileage” thing that always seems to work its way into the mix at Fontana.  If it comes down to fuel mileage, it could be anybody’s race but I still think the Hendrick teams look strong all around.

Well, that’s the way I see it for this week…

See ya next time…

Rusty

© February 2009 – Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Daytona (Feb 2009): The JAFV “After Chatter”

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There has been so much said over the last couple of weeks about Nascar at Daytona it is hard to believe much more could be said. However, I will say that the BIG event on Sunday afternoon left many fans thinking the end of the race was a relative non-event. (This is usually the way it goes when the end of the event is rained out and the field finishes according to the order they were in when the red flag was thrown.)

Now, don’t get me wrong… I understand why they called the race when they did and why some of the fans didn’t like it. However, it is a fact that some fans felt just the slightest bit cheated by not having a full race to the checkered flag.

You see, I didn’t like rain-outs when I was racing and I don’t like them now either, but they are a fact of life when it comes to racing whether at a small track or a big track. One thing no one can control in an outdoor sport is the weather.

I do understand the frustration of the fans though. This was restrictor-plate racing at its best and at a place that was really showcasing the restrictor-plate for Cup racing in a positive way. I’m sure there will be those that have opposing views to mine, but, I’m one of those that does like restrictor plate racing and I like it at the super speedways of Talledega and Daytona.

I know the drivers have their own thoughts about it (because I once was one at our local small tracks) but as a fan, I like the closeness of racing that it breeds. It really makes it a whole new game. It certainly adds the importance of strategy back into the mix and adds the ability to take advantage of any little thing back into the hands of the drivers.

It has been evident over the last couple of years in particular, hardly anyone shows all of their cards before the last ten laps of the race, especially at Daytona. I’m sure that some of the feelings of disappointment might have been different if the driver a fan wanted to win would have won because of the rain, but the call came when it did and we all have to live with it. (Besides, it was easy to tell that Matt Kenseth was not at all disappointed with the win even with help from weather. In fact, in the after race interview, he appeared quite overwhelmed by it. I didn’t hear anything directly, but, I really don’t think his owner, Jack Roush was bothered by it much either.)

Personally, I thought the race was disappointing in the way it ended, but that’s because I was looking forward to those last 10-15 laps. I wasn’t looking for another big wreck, but I was looking for all of the shuffling that takes place and who would make the right move at the right time and come out on top.

After all of the great racing we saw during Speed Weeks in all of the classes, it only figured that the 500 would be no different. I was expecting the big shootout to be between the likes of Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmy Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and maybe even Carl Edwards. These are just the ones I mention … there were others with names that aren’t quite as well known, (but probably will be one day soon.)

Well, be that as it may, the February Nascar race at Daytona is in the record books for now and there is nothing anyone can do to change the outcome; So we won’t spend any more time on it at the moment. It is time to turn our focus to the west coast as Nascar heads for California.

As we leave Daytona behind until the summer time, it is time to reflect on what Speed Weeks was like overall. It is my personal opinion that it was a really “feel good” time in many ways:

  • We saw a renewed bounce in the competitive step of Mark Martin and I look for great things to come from his team in the near future.
  • Jeff Gordon broke his winless streak by winning one of the Gatorade Duels.
  • Tony Stewart made a very strong showing with his brand new team and that will definitely prove to be exciting over the season.
  • Daytona was a sell out and that says something even in the face of the present economic downturn.
  • The racing was really, really good this year. It was exciting and on the edge, (except for the rain-out)
  • Jeremy Mayfield raced his way into the 500 and that makes a statement for the little guys.
  • Tommy Baldwin’s team made the race and offered a strong showing even though the team is brand new.

Well, we could go on and on but, pretty much anything that could be said has been said by someone in the last two weeks. I’m looking forward to the next race. Come on back Saturday and we’ll talk about the upcoming race in Fontana, CA right here at … “Just A Fan’s View”…until then,

I’ll see you next time …

Rusty

©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

Nascar at Daytona: The 2009 Racing Season Is Off To A Great Start

When everything is looking down in the market and the economic sky appears dark and dreary, one apparent bright spot is Nascar in Daytona. The consensus for “The Shootout” and the Gator Duels has been extremely positive and, as anyone that either watched the racing in person or on TV or listened in to MRN on Sirius/XM radio, can tell you…The racing was really, really good.

That has set the stage in anticipation for the big event on Sunday. The event appears to be ripe for some feel good stories, (as if we haven’t had some already)

Unfortunately, I am a little stretched for time this weekend because of previous commitments and may not make it back until the race is in the books. I do look forward to it as I know you do…

See ya next time…
Rusty

© February 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View – Rusty Norman

and podcastnorm.com

At Just a Fan’s View We Love Nascar Racin’ and We’re Glad It’s That Time Again!!

Click below to hear this podcast on S3 Media player

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Hi everybody and welcome to the first post of the year for our new site right here at “Just A Fan’s View”.  It has been a while since we’ve actually done anything here, but, there are always reasons, (maybe some would call them, ‘excuses’), but we have been working hard to get some of this new year planned out. No matter what, I am excited and glad that we are back and it is time for the season to begin for Just A Fan’s View and Nascar at Daytona, FL.

I watched the “Shootout” on Saturday night and I have to say, I was definitely pleasantly surprised with the quality of the racing that went on. It was a great race even though the guy I was rootin’ for didn’t win.  It appeared the drivers all showed up ready to race which was evidenced by the fact that they were all up on the wheel and aggressively racing to win the first race of the 2009 season.

I have to admit, I enjoyed every minute of it.  Heck, I even enjoyed the pre-race commentary.  At least enough happened over the off season that the commentators had a lot to talk about and much of it was interesting and informative. Things have been happening so fast over the off-season that has been extremely hard to keep up with everything. Some things are probably changing even as I write this.

I really wanted to get something up here on the new site, and here is the first of many posts coming up over the rest of the Nascar season. You will notice some changes that we have made here on the site and I think you will like the things that are coming up.  We intend to have some fan interviews and lots of opinions offered about all the new and old stuff going on this year in Nascar.

I’m looking forward to being with you and we may even have new posts and podcasts up daily starting this Thursday with the twin qualifiers.

It sure looks like it is going to be an exciting and interesting year.  I can’t wait … I’m ready for some Nascar Racing!!!

See ya next time …

Rusty

Nascar Looks Ahead to 2009: Some After Season – After Chatter

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This will be a short report on the After Season-After Chatter. Not because there’s not a lot to talk about, but, perhaps I jumped the gun just slightly. I fully intended to have the new site up and running on its own, but, I need at least one more week. When I make the move it should be fully functional. That’s when I hope to have the RSS feed info available and all the other little details that I want to be there for you.

You see the problem is that I went away on a short vacation for Thanksgiving and just didn’t keep after the work side.  I goofed off and I needed it. Now I am back and I am running just a little behind, but I will catch up soon…

All of that aside, Nascar has really been buzzing with all of the challenges and situations that have come about because of the economic downturn here in the United States and around the world. It seems that everyone on the outside looking in has a suggestion for Nascar to help, “save the sport”, whether they need the help or not. I have listened and read  with interest and amusement as people have let their thoughts be known.

Some of the insight from seasoned writers and fans has been interestingly sound. Some has been outrageously out of touch and one-sided. A few have exposed their obvious envy of the ones that make the most money because they think those people should not be paid as much as they are and that their salaries should go to those that may be let go because of economic reasons. That seems to be the impression of more than a few but is usually because they are comparing the work they do with the “work” they think the drivers and others do. Hey, business is business and I think those that are successful right now, must know what they’re doing or they wouldn’t be successful.

Yes, it’s true, I have my own opinion as I know others do, but, let me say right here and now, you can’t fix it if it ain’t broke. There is a lot to talk about and a lot to consider but let”s remember that some of the facts are just now coming available. I know there is a lot we all should consider as fans and interested parties of the Nascar sport, but for some of the picture to clear up, we’re just going to have wait and see how it all plays out.  We can jump into the fray or we can wait a week or two and most of the foggy stuff will clear up and we will have a better view of the coming season and what really needs to be thought about for the good of all involved.

I don’t think there is anyone I know that has not been affected by the economy. Even while I was on my short little vacation in the southeastern United States I could tell the economy is affecting many people. In fact, you don’t have to listen very closely to find many of the conversations turning towards the times we are facing as individuals and a nation.

Those involved in Nascar are no different than those in any other “business” and those involved have to make hard decisions as much as the next guy. The situation is, times are tight and expenses have to be brought under control in one way or another. You can’t continue to spend money you don’t have unless you want to face some dire circumstances. There is absolutely no reason to spend money if you don’t have to. Isn’t it interesting how even big businesses have to face tight economics the same as small businesses only on a different scale and this downturn makes this more obvious than it might normally be.

Well, I think I’ve said about all I need to say on the subject for this week. Next week, look for more on taking a look back to this last season, thoughts on the C.O.T. and looking ahead to what teams (and fans) may find themselves facing in the new year.

See ya next time …

Rusty

©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

all rights reserved

Nascar in Texas: from “Just A Fan’s View…”

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How can two tracks be so similar and yet so different?

If we take a look at the two tracks, Atlanta and Texas, they are quite similar in size and banking, but much different in age of the asphalt and transition from the banking to the straightaways. Those appear to be the biggest differences from my point of view and it is what gives the Texas Speedway a character all its own when compared to Atlanta.

Both tracks have 24 degree banking and both are one and a half mile in distance, but that is where the similarities stop. According to the drivers, Atlanta is just plain slippery and the surface is old and abrasive, kinda like old Darlington used to be. It chews up tires quickly and the only thing you can do as the tires begin to wear is slow down or put it in the wall, (which once again according to the drivers is in a lap or two.)

If we look at the last nine laps in Atlanta last week, those that took new tires at the last yellow flag consistently moved to the front past those that didn’t. Jimmy Johnson was the most noticeable as he went from eleventh to second and, given a another lap or two, may well have passed Carl Edwards and finished first, but that’s just a ‘what if’ statement. The race was what it was and ended the way it did.

So, Texas is just another one and a half mile oval, right? Maybe so, but I’m interested in seeing how the tires hold up throughout a run and how much the drop off in lap times will be. I think that will be one of the important key factors in the results at the end of the race.

Another thing that will prove to be interesting is that the field was able to qualify this week and the difference in where the Chasers pit is totally different than the last three weeks. It is my opinion this could make the largest difference from the last three weeks in who finishes out front.

This week, the front runners in the Chase are not lined up in the pits according to the standings.

  • This week, Jeff Gordon starts on the pole and has the first pit stall and Jimmy Johnson will not have that advantage.
  • This week, Martin Truex Starts second and Carl Edwards is beginning the race back in sixteenth. That will also affect Carl’s ability to make anything up in the pits.
  • Greg Biffle, instead of starting third, will be mired back in nineteenth place. All of this could make a big difference in the way things wring out as the race progresses.

This week should be no different than other weeks with the C.O.T. Track position will ultimately determine the final outcome of the race and that will be affected by strategies and decisions made in the pits.

I find it interesting that several of those that are situated in the middle to the back of the top twelve in the Chase standings and need any type of advantage to make any advancement in the Chase standings, are starting ahead of the top four. It makes me ask the questions:

  • “Would the Chase standings be closer if we wouldn’t have had qualifying rained out over the last three weeks?”
  • “If things were closer would this week’s starting lineup shake things up when the checkered flag drops at the end of the race?”
  • “What if all of the top twelve were separated by only 225 points?”

These are all interesting ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ questions, but the facts are that the three straight qualifying rain-outs did give an advantage to those highest in the points at the time. Whether or not they could capitalize on that advantage depended on how prepared they were for the three tracks they raced at and whether or not they had part or equipment failures of some sort. The facts also showed that not everyone had great luck in that department during those three weeks either.

I guess that is what makes the Chase so exciting, isn’t it?

That brings us to the “Just A Fan’s View” opinion of who will win this weekend and, as usual, it is a hard choice because of the way things are shaking out so far this weekend.

I know how strong Matt Kenseth was at Atlanta last week and how incredibly fast Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards were.

Jeff Gordon has not fared well at Texas in the past but consistently ran up front at Atlanta last week. This could bode well for his chances of winning the race this week in Texas, but I’m not sure about that either.

It is very possible the winner this week could be one that is unexpected. Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and yes, even Dale Earnhardt, Jr could be in victory lane at the end of the race this weekend.

You see, Jamie McMurray has been running strong over the last several races and is my strongest candidate for a dark horse winner this weekend, but, it is also possible that Kurt Bush could come home with the victory as my unexpected second choice for a dark horse winner.

With the way everyone is all over the place in the line up this week, it is a harder choice for me than usual.

I guess I shouldn’t leave out the one that has been the most consistent and say that Jimmy Johnson is a very strong choice for the visit to victory lane at the end of the race. This is his best chance to finish in the middle of the pack for the race and not lose a lot to those behind him. I do not think he will win but I do admit the possibility.

Carl Edwards is also strong at this type track and with Bob Osborn in the pits as crew chief, his chances are also very good this weekend.

Alright, enough of this avoiding the issue of who will actually win. It is time for the rubber to meet the road, stick my neck out and choose the winner.

I guess my problem is that I think it is a toss up between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon and I am really torn between the two. Naturally, I would like to see Jeff Gordon end his drought of winning and take the victory but, I know how strong Matt Kenseth is at tracks like these, (which holds true for all of the Roush teams.)

Wow, as I said, this is tough, but here goes.

Jeff Gordon will win this weekend in a tight battle that goes right down to the wire and Matt Kenseth will finish in the top five along with Dale Jr, Jimmy Johnson and Carl Edwards.

Well, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it, no matter what.

See ya next time …

Rusty

© 2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman