NASCAR at Loudon from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanThere is one thing about Loudon that won’t change this weekend no matter what else happens – there are those that need to have a very good finish if they want to stay in contention for being or getting into the Chase and there are a few that could help their chances even more if they could win on Sunday afternoon. The reason winning would help them is because they are already close to being in by points but don’t have a win and there are others that have a win even though they are lower in the points standings. According to the way the Chase format is set up, the two wildcard slots are only available to those in the top twenty that have the wins and the points.

As it stands right now, Tony Stewart is eleventh according to points but David Ragan would be in by virtue of his one win. If that doesn’t add interest to the next eight races, I don’t know what does.

Just for grins, let’s take a quick look at some of those in eleventh to twenty-second in points. Now, we’ve already talked about Tony Stewart’s situation and right after him comes Clint Bowyer. Even though Bowyer is only thirteen points behind Stewart, he would still be behind Ragan if the Chase started today because he doesn’t have a win. In fact, Ragan would jump over all four of those ahead of him in points which includes Juan Montoya and Greg Biffle, too.

Brad Keselowski is in twenty first place, but he also has one win. If he could break into the top twenty, he would also jump over all of those ahead of him and would be in the Chase with Ragan and the two of them would be in the eleventh and twelfth place, leaving all of the others out in the cold. Of course you know, that is if the Chase started today, (which it won’t, but after all, it is only about eight races away.)

Well, that’s enough conjecture for now, but it does give us several things to think about and watch over the next several weeks.

From this fan’s view, this should not only be an interesting race but a pivotal one as well. With Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart both starting on the front row that tells me they know what they both need to do and I am sure they hope to take those positions right on down to the end of the race. Tony needs the win (and the good finish) and Ryan is in the top ten but needs a win and a good points day to feel more secure about his position. This is an opportunity for both of them to make a statement as we get closer to the twenty sixth race when they will either be in or out of the Chase.

Since Loudon is a flat track, it’ll be pretty obvious who has the best chance to take the trip to Victory Lane. It is this fan’s opinion the one who can get into the turn and rotate through the center of it and still hook up all of their horses to make the drag race down the straights on a consistent basis will be running at or near the front. The one that does it consistently better than the rest (especially at the end of the race) will be the one being interviewed as the winner.

Now, that presents us with figuring out who that possible winner will be. Because of the type track NHMS is, it isn’t necessarily an easy task to pick a winner. Because of the closeness of the competition in Cup racing these days it makes it even more difficult, at least from my view. You see, I think several things are going to figure into who wins and from my view, it could any one of several teams.

Momentum is going to be one big factor and several drivers and teams are coming in with renewed confidence. A couple of those are David Reutimann and Joey Logano. Martin Truex Jr would also have to get a nod from me simply because Michael Waltrip Racing has shown some very positive improvement recently. He and Reutimann are both good short trackers and I expect they will be at least visible in the top ten or fifteen. As for Logano, he seems to be trying to get a win and make it into the mix for the Chase.

When it comes right down to it, it is another one of those weeks that track position is going to play a big role (uh, like it doesn’t every week?) and there will be no room for errors on the pit stops. Like other tracks of this type, the best place to pass at NHMS is in the pits and unfortunately, it is the easiest place to be passed, too.

From observing the practice and qualifying sessions, it is hard to completely rule out the Dodges or the Toyotas. I expect to hear both of the Bush brothers names mentioned but I’m not so sure it will be for them winning. I guess I can’t completely rule out Denny Hamlin either, but he has had a run of bad luck this year.

In truth, this fan hasn’t see that much to impress him about the Fords for this weekend either. Oh sure, I know they can totally surprise me, but I really think this is going to be a Chevy weekend and I really do think it is going to be a Hendrick or Hendrick associated Chevy at that. As for which one, well… I just haven’t decided yet, but when you see one of them in victory Lane when it’s over, just remember I told you so…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 16, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Daytona After Thoughts from A Fans View

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There was plenty of fireworks Saturday night at Daytona, both during the race and after, and like I said before the race, the end of the race proved to be one of the most exciting in recent times. The two car draft was the only way to get around the track fast and everyone used it to their advantage (and some to their disadvantage) the whole night. Not only did they team up on the track, but they also teamed up as best they could on the pit stops. It is proving to be a whole new way of racing the restrictor plate tracks and, honestly, it is constantly changing the way they do everything at them.

The drivers historically don’t like the restrictor plates because it restricts their ability to break away from the others, but they do like the super speedways. Although they don’t particularly like the two car draft, they can’t argue with the increased speed it offers. So what do they do? They find more and better ways to use it to the fullest extent.

The evolving of the process of this type of racing has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years and, now, they almost have to include their drafting partner in every aspect of the race or risk losing their partner and any chance of winning. I find it interesting that just about everything they do, including having to return to the pits in case of a miscue by one of them, means they both have to come back in or one or the other of them has to find a new drafting partner. The strategy involved has reached new heights and has opened up a whole new can of worms for some and whole new possibilities for others.

Racing in the two car draft has its hazards and it depends on which car they’re driving in the draft what effect it has. The car in the front generally has the visibility and the one in the back is often driving blind. The car in the back has a very limited view of the track ahead and that can often lead to problems. If you noticed Saturday night, the first one to experience the the effect of the limited view was Carl Edwards. His drafting partner, Greg Biffle couldn’t see all that Carl could see and kept pushing when he possibly should have been slowing up a bit.

Was it Biffle’s fault? In a sense, yes, but it was a matter of the circumstances they faced and those circumstances happened faster than they could be communicated. From this fan’s view, this is the biggest drawback to the two car draft and it is most evident when timing is critical. If both drivers have time to react, things usually work out. If not, one, or both of them pays a price. Sometimes that price is very high in the sense that it usually puts one of them out of contention for the rest of the night. The other usually has to look for a new drafting partner and then they have to figure out how they can best work together with that other person.

David Ragan and his partner, Matt Kenseth, definitely had things work out in their favor and the late race cautions didn’t hurt them either. When it came down to it, David and Matt decided they were going to hook up and go until they finished or were passed. If they had tried to split up, (or split up so one or the other could win in the last several hundred feet), the result may have been completely different. Taking the white flag and then having another caution come out didn’t hurt them at all. It was pretty obvious to this fan, Kyle Bush and Jeff Gordon were coming with quite a head of steam back in fifth and sixth when the caution did come out.

There was plenty going on in the last part of that last lap and this fan thinks it was going to be a big pile up anyway. It’s my opinion it was going to happen right at the finish line instead of where it did, but as it was, it just moved the finish line closer to where they were.

Now, had all of the first eight finishers been able to continue under full power to the finish line instead of the caution coming out, I wonder how things would have looked as they all took the checkers. I think it is possible we could have seen an even closer finish than the one at Talladega. As it was, we saw a great finish anyway, (and I know David Ragan isn’t complaining at all about the finish…)

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

NASCAR at Pocono from A Fans View

 

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Rusty NormanPocono is not an oval, does not have four turns and it is a cross between a road course and an oval. They call it a triangle (and it actually looks like one), but one thing is slightly confusing to me. If NASCAR races at a race track called an oval they have four turns but this track, being a triangle, should have six in my book. When they talk about this track, they talk about as if it is a road course and it only has three turns. Of course, they name some of the turns and straightaways and that is supposed to make it easier for us to understand where they are on the course, (and notice I purposely used course instead of track in this instance just to show there is an assumed difference.)

Okay, okay… enough with the trivial stuff already…

Pocono is a unique track and it is always interesting to see how the different drivers handle the challenges it presents. Some just love it while others just suffer through it. It is a place you have to sacrifice something in at least one spot to make gains in others and it really does have three distinct turns, each one having its own characteristics. On top of that, the track has three distinct straights and one of them is wide and long and can handle six wide racing to the turn at he end of it. Hopefully, the drivers sort themselves out before they get to that turn or some of them aren’t going to make it through.

NASCAR has made some interesting changes for the teams to deal with this weekend and one of them is loosening the gear ratio rules so it is advantageous to shift into what many call a passing gear to better accelerate off the turns again. That may or may not be good for all of the drivers, but it will make the race all the more interesting.

If they do shift there is the possibility they can miss a shift and that can cause them problems. The expectation, is they will shift to try and pass coming out of the turns by throwing it down into third gear to get a jump off the turn and then back into high gear. Speed is going to be the determining factor on shifting and then there is the concern of how much more fuel they might burn by shifting. Personally, I think shifting is the biggest unknown going into the race tomorrow. I think it will be something the driver will decide on the fly. If it works for them and moves them toward the front, you can bet they’ll use it to the fullest advantage.

So what is the expectation of how things will go on Sunday afternoon for the 5 hour Energy 500 at Pocono from this fan’s view? Well, since you asked, I tell you what I think…

First of all, (and judging from the practice and qualifying sessions), I think the bumps in turn one are going to throw more than one car out of balance and possibly out of control. (Mike Skinner’s qualifying try was the most obvious example of what I am talking about.) One miscalculation and it can mean losing a lot of ground on a race track that is already hard enough to pass on anyway. If they lose it coming out of turn one, it puts them out of position going into the next turn which can lose them positions and possibly a car as they use one of the walls as a brake. I think the problems will only be more obvious under racing conditions and being able to be in the best groove may be a thing much harder to do when you blow the turn and have to move up the track in that area.

Two drivers looking very confident after the qualifying session were Kurt Bush and Denny Hamlin. Bush said he was very pleased with the way he and his team performed to take the pole even in a backup car. I don’t think that it necessarily follows that he will win, but I do have to admit the Penske Dodges are looking much stronger than they did just a short time ago in the season. Once again, from this fan’s view, Kurt Bush could take the win but Pocono is a tough place to win at and we’ll just have to wait and see.

As for Denny Hamlin, well, I just have to say he looks strong and that could spell trouble for the rest of the field, considering how well he usually does at this track. He is definitely not a shew in to win, but he is a definite strong possible to take the trip to Victory Lane once again.

The one that looked happy but surprised at his qualifying lap was Jeff Gordon. He felt his car handled way to good and was still fast. Could it be he will take his second victory this weekend? Possibly, but 500 miles at Pocono is full of surprises and possibilities.

I’m not fully convinced this won’t be a race where someone totally unexpected wins even though it will be a challenge. Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose and several others have great opportunities to be first past the checkers this weekend and look, I haven’t even mentioned the Richard Childress team of Clint Boyer, or the Carl Edwards Roush Ford.

Does anyone think Dale Jr has a chance this weekend? How about 5 time Jimmie Johnson or long time veteran Mark Martin? Hm-m-m… Now that I think about it, this could be another race that won’t show us the winner until they pass under checkered flag first and call out as the winners the last two weeks have, “I can’t believe we won!!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 11, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Charlotte After Thoughts From A Fans View

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It doesn’t matter which race you were watching Sunday afternoon, the last lap was where you would expect to find out the winner, and that generally goes without saying. What was kind of unexpected is that both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 were decided coming out of turn four and the result was totally different than it looked like it was going to be before the leaders got to that point. From this fan’s view, I was glad I hung around to watch both of them and, I have to admit, I never expected what happened to actually happen.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you what happened because the headlines and news reports have already covered the events more thoroughly that I could ever hope, but if you were watching, you know just how unexpected (or maybe I should say, shocking) the finishes were. Now tell the truth, when the races were over, did you really expect what happened??

I’m sure many of you Dale Jr fans are saying, “Yeah, it figures it would happen that way with the way his luck has been running.” I can agree with you on that, but there are others that have been having about the same kind of luck. A couple of names that quickly jump to mind are Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart. Both of them could have finished a lot differently had things gone just a bit different. Several others that have been facing similar times would be Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, and Jeff Gordon.

With all of the speculation surrounding Jimmie Johnson possibly winning his sixth championship in a row, from this fan’s view he may be in the top ten in points, but so far this year, it has been a bit of struggle for him too. When his engine blew Sunday night later in the race, it only added to the challenges the #48 team has been facing this year. He probably would have finished near the front had it not happened but that is one thing about the 600 mile event… anything can, and usually does happen.

His engine failure was the first for the Hendrick teams this year. As anyone will tell you, it is unusual for a Hendrick engine to blow, but it is not unheard of. Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick fan’s across the board will watching to see what happens in the near future. From my view though, I think it was a fluke part failure and they probably have nothing to be concerned about. It does make life a bit more interesting for them during the next few weeks, and I for one will be paying attention to see if more failures happen throughout the organization even though I don’t expect it.

To me, probably the biggest surprise on the night other than the last lap, was where Carl Edwards finished. It wasn’t that he finished much worse than anyone else, it was that he and many others thought he was going to do much better. This race was a different one and it shows just how hard it is to do what so few have done – win both the All Star and 600 mile races back to back over the two weekends.

There has been some speculation in how NASCAR handled the last few laps which, somehow doesn’t surprise me. I have heard some say the reason they didn’t throw the caution at the last restart was because Dale Jr was leading. I guess that is a possibility and I can understand that point of view. My own opinion is they didn’t throw the caution because there was no debris and all of the cars were still moving and getting out of the way.

Now this is pure speculation on my part, but I think they considered how minor the accident was and that it was late in the race and a number of cars were definitely low on fuel (and could have caused an even bigger pile up the next time had they run out.) I do believe they were watching to see if the track cleared and they delayed throwing the caution until the last possible moment. As it worked out, the track was clear, no one was in any danger and the race ended under green with gas tanks running dry on many cars really mixing up the finishing order. From this fan’s view, the ending couldn’t have been more fitting than it was after this 600 miler.

Just as a side note, it appeared to this fan, Kevin Harvick was the most surprised person of all as the checkered flag dropped. For Dale Jr and Denny Hamlin to run out of fuel on t he last half lap had to be completely unexpected and for him to go from third to first in that short distance after almost 600 miles even more unexpected.

Now I know this is just my opinion made from observing him in victory lane, but he almost appeared embarrassed for the way he had griped and complained to his crew throughout the night; (and notice I said… almost.) Although I know he is very competitive and aggressive, (and admittedly a bit of a whiner at times), he did apologize to them and tried to make light of his treatment of them throughout the race. Since he did win, I’m sure all the “competitive whining” will be forgotten and ignored by crew chief and crew members, at least for now, but this fan has to wonder, what if the nit picking continues and they quit winning… ?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 1, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Talladega After Thoughts

I have to be honest, not every moment was exciting but I do think the ends justified the means for those fans that sat through some of the the duller moments of the NASCAR race Sunday afternoon. The “push draft” was definitely in full force and even though there was some switching around, for the most part, everyone had a drafting partner… (They had to have one or they would have never been able to keep up with the rest.)

This was one of the most interesting finishes ever at the Talladega track in Alabama, (at least from this fan’s view), and tied the record for closest finishes in NASCAR history. There was very little anyone could hope to have been different, other than possibly who won and in case you missed the race, well… I guess all I can say is you missed it.

Yes, Jimmie Johnson ended up winning, but not without being pushed by his drafting partner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he only won by 0.002 of a second over Clint Boyer. Although there was great anticipation and the possibility of chaos on the final dash from turn four to the checkered flag, they were four wide crossing the finish line. It was all Hendrick Chevys and Roush Fords as eight cars crossed the line less than a quarter of a second (or more likely less than a tenth of a second) apart for those first eight spots. Who could ask for more?!?

Well, I already know the answer to that question. This was Talladega and the one thing that would have made many fans happier would have been Jimmie Johnson pushing Dale Jr across the line ahead of everyone else. Looking at the finishing order, even though all eight of these guys finished nose-to-tail with their chosen drafting partners, Jr didn’t even finish third, that was Jeff Gordon. He did finish fourth though, but that was just a fraction ahead of Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Mark Martin. Yep, you got it… that gives you an idea of how close the finish was?

Yeah, that was exciting and the race was a good race, but there was a bit of time where there wasn’t much going on other than “push drafting.” If you watched the race you saw many of the contenders just running around in the back, and the front, for much of the race until the last twenty five or so laps. It was mostly for the reason of trying to be sure they would be around at the end of the race so they would have a chance at possibly winning. It was definite that’s what was going on in the Hendrick camp and it worked out very well for them.

In actuality, is was kinda like a couple of years back when most of the competitors fell into single file, follow-the-leader and just turn laps mode until it came time to put the hammer down. As a fan, and being realistic about restrictor plate racing, there is the inherent problem of 188 laps around a little over a two and a half mile oval called a super speedway and trying to make every lap interesting. If you ask the drivers, and especially since the two car draft, they are more interested in just staying in contention and staying out of trouble until it is time to go for it. Lately, that is somewhere around 15 to 25 laps from the end.

If you ask the fans, they will tell you the reason they watch most every lap is they don’t want to miss the “big one” just in case it happens. (Oh, and they like to watch their favorite driver take the lead.) Of course, they do want to be around for the end because they know there is always the possibility of some real action for those final laps, (and possible double file restarts along with multiple green-white-checkers.)

There are many thoughts floating around with the intention of improving on the restrictor plate racing in NASCAR. Although many are well intentioned, I think much of it is misguided. As a fan, I love restrictor plate racing for what it is and I have seen a lot a great restrictor plate races over the years. Does that mean I have enjoyed every lap? Not necessarily but I have always enjoyed the races.

What restrictor plate races may lack in lap after lap excitement they make up for in the possible outbreak of what some would call “mayhem” at any moment. Last year, I wrote in an article about how some of the best memories I have from my own short track racing days were those races where the racing was door handle to door handle and nose to tail for many laps. There is always something exciting to me about close racing; I think many would agree with me about that, although I know there are also some who think racing should have their adrenaline pumping every second or it’s just not worth it.

Restrictor plate racing is more a mental race as well as an endurance race. It also takes more than just a driver to win one… it takes a team. It is my hope, they don’t make any changes to restrictor plate racing (especially just for “the Show”) and that we continue to follow the directive from NASCAR that says, “Boys, have at it!”

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© April 21, 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

Martinsville After Thoughts from Just A Fans View

I don’t know, there’s just something about short track races. This last weekend at Martinsville was just about one of the most interesting NASCAR short track races I’ve watched in a long time. There was really never much of a let down in the action anywhere on the track and the racing was very good throughout the field. I don’t remember a Martinsville race keeping my attention for almost every lap as this one did; at least not recently.

In typical short track fashion, there were hurt feelings, high emotions and disappointments that carried over to the post-race interviews. Probably two of the most disappointed were the two drivers that have accounted for nine of the most recent victories at Martinsville, that is up until Sunday’s race, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. Both of them let their emotions show in their interviews with the press following the race.

Now, if you’re a Denny Hamlin fan please don’t don’t be offended, but in this fan’s opinion, Denny Hamlin has started his whining again. (Aw, never mind, it’s okay if you’re offended ’cause I’m gonna say what I’m gonna say anyway.)

He hasn’t had the greatest start to the year and it is obvious it bothers him. I don’t see anything wrong with him being disappointed, but I am bothered when a driver throws his crew chief and pit crew under the bus, which is what he appears to have done, (perhaps unintentionally.) This is not the first time he has has been more willing to look at his crew than at himself. Not everything is foreseeable and looking at the way his teammates are running, I don’t see a whole lot any of them are doing wrong. Yes, they’ve had some engine problems at JGR but I think at least some of that can possibly be attributed to the fuel change this year. From this fan’s view, it would do him well to deal with the problems better himself and let them be ironed out by the engineers and the engine builders and encourage his crew instead.

He says he looked at what he could do to make himself better after losing the Championship last year and, if he thinks he has made himself that much better since the end of last year, and they’re doing so bad, maybe he needs to consider going somewhere else instead of being at JGR. Kyle Bush has been able to deal with the problems they’ve faced and he isn’t looking too bad after the first six races. The same goes for Joey Logano; he hasn’t had that great of a start either but I haven’t heard him whining, at least not in public.

Jimmie Johnson wasn’t happy about being found speeding on pit road near the end of the race and appeared to think NASCAR didn’t want him to win and they called the penalty because they didn’t like the way his entry into his pit stall looked. Aw, come on champ… you may have won five Championships in a row but in this fan’s opinion, you’re still not perfect and I seriously doubt your brain is better than the electronics that timed you and found you speeding. No matter though, you’re still number three in the 2011 point standings even though you haven’t won in fourteen or so races. (Yes, it appears you’re right, NASCAR is definitely out to get you… )

Oh well, on to more important things than those typical after-a-short-track-race emotional outbursts and frustrations…

Once again, Kevin Harvick managed to take the win even after struggling most of the afternoon. Was it because he just got lucky? Did he cheat? Did he spin out those in front of him so he could win? No… he just passed all of the ones in front of him because he was faster at the end of the race than those he put behind him. In my opinion, just like last week, he had more horses hooked up to the track at the end. It was just good hard racing and a lot of hard work from the beginning of the race to the end by the driver and his crew. Did he throw his crew under the bus? No, but he did complain about the car at the beginning. I guess since he won, Harvick thought his crew redeemed themselves and he could put up with them one more week and not think they were the problem instead of the answer… (Hm-m-m, did that almost sound like a bit of sarcasm directed at someone else, possibly someone at JGR??? Oops, sorry… it was.)

Oh well, I can’t leave without saying something about the way Dale Jr has been running. It has been good to see how he’s done so far this year. It is this fan’s opinion, Rick Hendrick making Steve Letarte his crew chief has been good for Jr so far. He is looking better every week and I really do think Junior Nation is going to be happy when he ends up in Victory Lane very soon now. (In fact, it could be this coming Saturday night in Texas.) It is obvious how badly he wants to win simply by observing how disappointed he was to finish second at Martinsville.

Honestly, (and of course this is my opinion), he needs to lighten up on himself just a little bit. No, I don’t think he needs to become less competitive and we all know how much winning means. He was leading and finished second thanks to some good strategy and some good driving. It is my opinion, he should take the second at Martinsville and enjoy it as much as second can be enjoyed and move on to Texas and go for the win. Sometimes, we can all be our own worst enemy. There is nothing wrong with finishing second if you weren’t as fast as the competition. Sometimes you just have to take that second and build on it in the coming weeks until you end up in Victory Lane… (well, at least it sounds good from where I’m sitting… )

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© April 5, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

Bristol After Thoughts from Just A Fans View

This will be short and to the point because there is really no reason to drag it out, although I do have a few questions about Bristol Motor Speedway and Kyle Bush. As expected, Kyle was the one to beat on Sunday afternoon, (at least at the end of the race), and he completed another sweep at the high-banked short track in Thunder Valley.

As many seasoned fans and veterans will tell you, there are times that a driver and his team hit on something at Bristol and it makes them hard to beat. It is obvious that Kyle loves the track and he is not the least bit intimidated by it. It seems more often than not, he can do no wrong and it is beginning to be a habit.

Let’s not forget, Kyle Bush isn’t the first one to win a lot at Bristol. In their day, Rusty Wallace and Darryl Waltrip also won a lot of races at the fast short track and more recently, so have Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon (just to mention two.) I do believe once a team hits on that confidence level of performance at a particular track, they are hard to beat for an extended period of time. That’s not to say they will win every time they go there, but it does mean they will be the one (or one of the ones) everyone considers the team to beat every time they show up to race there, no matter which series it is.

Why it happens is a mystery to some, but it is this fan’s opinion that once they hit on that special confidence about a track, no matter what happens to them, they are confident they can handle what ever situation may be thrown at them. For some reason, unknown to the teams that haven’t performed well at a particular track (like Bristol or others), it is easier for them to overcome adversity that tries to test their dominance at that particular track.

What is so different about Kyle Bush this year and why re so many talking about him in a different way. If you check back to last years articles here at “Just A Fan’s View”, I mentioned how I noticed Kyle Bush was maturing and changing. He has continued that “maturing process” into this year and it has been interesting to watch. As a fan, I have a theory about all of this and some of what I noticed is evident in others, also.

So, what are these magical “things” I’ve noticed all about? (Well… I am so glad someone finally asked me about that.)

There appears to be something about becoming a team owner that changes how drivers, especially high strung drivers, (uh, I mean, some would call them “highly competitive” drivers), look at their job when they have to answer directly to their sponsors. Just look at the obvious changes in Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and yes, Kyle Bush, too. There has been noticeable change in all three and much of that process started to become really obvious after they became team owners. (Well actually, in Tony Stewart’s case, I noticed a big change in his attitude when he bought Eldora Speedway and started his influence over it.)

In all three of these cases, a noticeable change in their maturity level became more obvious AFTER this change in their lives. Have I gathered statistics and can I prove it? Nope, but I do think from observing them closely in the times afterwards, it was a definite turning point in their maturity level. Is it coincidental? Maybe, but in any case, they have changed and, it is my personal opinion, becoming an owner of a team made a large difference. I am glad to see it and would also like to say I don’t see where it has made them any less competitive, but possibly even more so and even more likeable than they were when they were younger and, (if I may say it without offending them), less mature. (Oh, and by the way, I don’t think Kyle getting married in January hurt anything either. He is more confident, more in control of his emotions and generally, less out-of-control than in previous years.)

So what has this got to do with Kyle Bush winning Sunday afternoon at Bristol and sweeping the weekend again? Not a whole lot but it is my observation as a fan and made over a period of time and watching how these guys have changed in particular. Does that mean they have all of the sudden become perfect? No, but it definitely means they are even more of a force to be reckoned with at every race track and for those hard-to-come-by Sprint Cup Championships.

While we’re talking about marriage (and having kids) having an effect on drivers in the Cup series, has anyone noticed a change in Carl Edwards’ performance this year? I know you’re probably thinking, “So, big deal! It’s just a coincidence.” Well… you may be right, but what a coincidence…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 25, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

Vegas 2011 After Thoughts from Just A Fan’s View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 11, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR at Vegas from Just Fan’s View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 05, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

Phoenix After Thoughts from Just A Fans View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya next time…

Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 04, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com

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

NASCAR at Phoenix: Top Three Dueling It Out in the Desert

Rusty NormanThe problem with being in the top three in points with two races to go in the Chase is there are more than three cars on the track, about twenty of them could win on Sunday and only three of them have anything to lose, (uh, between the three of them that is.) Those three are dueling in the dessert for the top spot in the points for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship. The rest just want to win and don’t care too much about where those three finish, as long as it’s behind them.

All eyes, (maybe I should say, cameras and microphones), are focused on the three and many of the others actually look like they will be the ones running up front at the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday at PIR. Honestly, (at least from this fan’s view), the only interesting thing about those top three so far this weekend is the (media perceived) mind games they are playing with each other. It sure hasn’t been about how fast they’re running so far this weekend because they haven’t been at the top of the speed chart. It wasn’t where they qualified because the three qualified 17th or worse.

So where is the interest this weekend? Well, according to the media, it is in the mental sparring taking place between leader, Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, and the other two in the top three. Yeah, I know that is an over simplification, but from all the talk around the sport this week, you would think there is a lot of mental anguish being felt by the two teams in the top three that were beaten by Hamlin last week.

I’m sorry folks but I disagree…

From my view it appears the “rhetoric” is just smack and the intention is just one crew chief trying to focus the media attention on performance to the other teams and away from himself. One thing he does have going in his favor though; the #11 JGR team did win last weekend and did take over the points lead and the perception is the four time champ, Johnson, is on the ropes and Harvick is just running third.

If you listen to Jimmie Johnson, his #48 Hendrick team is just using the “rhetoric” as motivation to improve their performance in Phoenix this weekend. (Nothing like a little verbal nudge from your competitor to bring your focus back on center.) Contrary to what others may think, or say for that matter, Chad Knaus is not panicking or pulling at straws. (Once again from my view), he is working to make it through a little bit of a rough spot and give his driver the best possible circumstances to work with in the race. If he and the team do their job, their driver, Jimmie Johnson only has to be concerned with his performance on the track, not trying to make up for shortcomings that are out of his control. In other words, it puts it back in the driver’s hands where it should be. Chad’s pulling and replacement of the over-the-wall crew last week in the middle of the race, (when the opportunity arose), just shows me he is thinking outside the box and on top of his game.

Kevin Harvick is just doing what he’s been doing all season long; mostly flying under the radar and finishing consistently near the top every week, no matter how it looks like he might do when practice and qualifying are taken into consideration. He has to perform, yes, but he can also hold back a little, (maybe be patient would better state it) and wait for the other two to mess up, either in the pits or on the track. It doesn’t matter which place it happens for them because he is going to be there ready to pounce on their miscues. He’s been doing it with consistency all year and it has been working for him, too.

So… how’s the race going to shape up between them this weekend? Let’s just look at the obvious, (for a change). Last week, I stuck my neck out thinking the top three would play it a little safe and opt for not making mistakes by pressing the envelope. I was wrong and, if things had gone just slightly different at the end, all three would have probably finished in the top five. This week, they are all starting in the middle of the lineup and all three will have to work their way through traffic and hope they don’t get caught up in someone else’s problem.

Denny Hamlin has a little bit of that thing called the “Big Mo” going for him, based on the win last weekend and just general performance in the Chase. Things have been going the right way for him and it “appears” he is in good shape. Appearances can be deceptive though and, in racing, things can turn against you just as fast as a glance in the mirror or a flat tire. The possibility of him having some challenges is always there.

Lately, Jimmie Johnson has been playing catch-up for one reason or another, which is a little out of character for the #48 team, especially at this time of the year. One could say he’s just been having some bad luck and leave it at that, (but of course you know I have a hard time doing that.) The way I see it, the competition in the Cup series has definitely tightened up this year between all the teams and the #48 team has not been performing at 100% every week. They absolutely have to perform at 100% this weekend and let the cards fall where they will. Just as things haven’t quite gone the way they would like, this could be the week they step it up on the competition and take the points lead to Homestead.

Now that I’ve said all of that, I can’t forget the fact there ARE forty other cars on the track as well and more than one of them looks like they could take the trip to Victory Lane this weekend. It won’t really matter all that much if they do, because all eyes (uh, cameras and microphones), will be focused on Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick and next week at Homestead…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 13, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

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