NASCAR Sprint Cup Teams Take On The Monster from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
It was kind of a rocky start for some when the first practice started at the Monster Mile, shutting it down for an extended period and affecting, in particular, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray and then… It rained. The rain washed out the qualifying session and the lineup will come from that first practice. For some, that was good but for others, well… maybe not so good.

Of immediate concern to all was Tony Stewart and his well being after his hard impact with the wall when Danica’s car dumped a bunch of rear end lube. He immediately told his crew on the radio that it hurt and he did exit the car slowly but, to everyone’s relief, walked to the ambulance on his own. He did manage to get back on the track with a backup car and made about three laps with it under speed.

Before I say too much about this weekend’s race, I just have to make a few comments about last weekend at Kansas. It seems if it weren’t for bad luck, Martin Truex Jr. would have no luck at all. He definitely had the field covered at Kansas and, had it not been for an unusual happening on his last pit stop, this fan thinks – along with many others – he would have ended up in Victory Lane.

As it turned out, Kyle Bush did end up there and walked away with his third victory of the 2016 season. As mentioned in last week’s article/podcast, the Joe Gibbs Toyotas looked very strong and had it not been for the strange happening with Truex Jr’s wheel problem and Denny Hamlin’s poor judgment trying to pass in the middle of a three-wide situation, all of the Gibb’s Toyotas would have finished quite well. Of course, Kyle Bush’s car did fail post race inspection and I’ll talk more about that later…

(I’ll be back in a minute after a word about today’s sponsor…)

The Monster at Dover does make life interesting for the drivers and the fans. With its 24 degree banking on the turns and 9 degree banking on the front and rear straights, the speeds are high and the action is generally fast on this 1 mile oval. When things go wrong, they usually happen in a hurry, too. Just as a quick review of Danica’s blowing a rear end gear, her car dumped a lot of rear end lube on the track. Following behind her were her teammate, Tony Stewart and fellow competitor, Jamie McMurray. Neither of them had time to miss the oil on the track or avoid hitting the wall and they were probably running around 150 mph when they got into the oil. In the same way, the Monster can attack anyone at anytime during the race on Sunday afternoon; no one is considered to be exempt from the perils at the Dover track.

Once again the JGR Toyotas showed up as they have most every weekend this season. They are definitely rolling and it wouldn’t surprise this fan at all to see one of them winning the Autism 400. I can’t discount the Stewart/Haas Chevys of Kevin Harvick or Kurt Bush though. Both looked fairly strong in the practices and both generally run good at Dover. The problem as this fan sees it is that the JGR Toyotas, in particular, haven’t really shown much weakness in any area so far. As the races have progressed most weekends, one or more of them have generally been in the mix for taking the win in these first ten or so races and, from this fan’s view, this weekend doesn’t look to be much different. The Stewart/Haas teams of Harvick and Bush, along with the Hendrick Chevys just might have something to say about it this weekend but I just don’t know if they’ve caught up to JGR yet.

Even though Kyle Bush won last weekend, he didn’t come away from the weekend unscathed. In post-race inspection it was discovered that not all of the lug nuts were on tight. With NASCAR’s newest ruling about the number of lug nuts and how well they are tightened, Kyle lost his crew chief and front tire changer at least for this weekend. From this fan’s view, I just don’t see that affecting his ability to win all that much. JGR has depth overall in the pits and elsewhere across the organization so I just don’t see where it will make a whole lot of difference. What will make an impact, at least in this fan’s opinion, is whether any of the other teams are beginning to catch up to the competitive level the JGR teams have displayed overall this season.

When it comes down to the racing, don’t look for it to be a ho-hum race without drama or excitement. As I mentioned earlier, the Monster Mile at Dover is no easy beast to tame and it remains to be seen who will be the one to do so in the Autism 400 Sunday afternoon.

Jimmie Johnson has a lot of wins at this track and he could be the one to tame it or it could be his teammate, Dale Jr. Both of them are looking for a victory and Dale Jr. probably desires it more than Jimmie and that isn’t taking anything away from JJ’s desire to add another victory to his stats for this season. I’m definitely not ruling Brad Keselowski out either and he generally runs pretty well at the Monster Mile along with teammate Joey Logano. The problem I have with picking an actual winner this weekend is that there are so many possibilities to choose from. Instead I’m going to go with saying I don’t think it will be someone that doesn’t deserve it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 14, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

It’s Saturday Night Under The Lights At Kansas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
After the wreck-fest at Talladega last weekend, NASCAR Cup teams hitting the track at Kansas may seem a bit tame. Kansas Speedway is a 1.5 mile driver and fan favorite and should prove to be an interesting race and even better yet, it’s another Saturday night under the lights. Nothing really compares with racing under the lights, at least from this fan’s view.

There are a lot of people that like when NASCAR races under the lights on a Saturday night. That could be because many a NASCAR fan grew up going to Saturday night racing at our local tracks and some of us even had the opportunity to drive in those races. Honestly, there’s just something about Saturday night races whether you’re a fan or a driver.

It appears, at least for the moment, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano have put their differences behind them – well… at least for the time being – but with the history the two of them had have over the last couple of seasons, who knows how things will be after this one is over tonight.

From this fan’s view, it seems when a couple of drivers have a few run-ins, somehow they manage to be around each other a lot and tensions can run pretty high for an extended period. I guess I should add, when one or the other of them thinks they’ve been wronged by the other or they actually have been wronged by the other; (and last season is a prime example of that between these two drivers.) All it takes is a misstep, whether intentional or not, by one or the other for things to flare up all over again. (Sometimes, the flare-up is to the delight of the fans and adds to the intensity and excitement week in and week out.)

Just one final statement of the racing at Talladega last weekend; when it comes down to it it’s likely only two things will be remembered by everyone about the race. Brad Keselowski won and they set a new record for the number of “Big Ones” in a race at Talladega. The final tally I heard of the number of cars that had either light or major damage in those accidents was thirty-three out of the forty that started.

(Be back in a minute; commercial for two buck themes or living life notes?)

When I was involved in racing I raced Chevys. As a Chevy fan, it is hard for me to fathom how strong the Toyotas are this season, especially the Joe Gibbs Toyotas. They have shown up just about every week so far as the ones to beat (whether they’ve won or not) and this week doesn’t look to be much different. All of the JGR teams and associated teams ran strong in practice and in qualifying and it could be an understatement for me to mention one of them “could” end up in Victory Lane when the Go Bowling 400 is done.

What I mean is, just look at the results from qualifying and the lineup for tonight’s race. JGR and associated Toyotas are four of the top six starters. Kurt Bush and Brad Keselowski slipped in between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Bush but, from this fan’s view, that’s a pretty strong statement coming from the JGR Toyota camp. Carl Edwards was the only one that qualified outside of the top ten from the JGR camp and he was twelfth. He did look good in practice though and, barring the unforeseen, he could be contending for the win as the laps wind down tonight.

It has to be hard for the teams that once held the dominating place in NASCAR to be looking on helplessly as not performing up to even their own standards. Of course I know you know I’m talking about Hendrick Motorsports. They just haven’t shown the strength they have in past years throughout their organization. Sure, I know Jimmie Johnson has two wins under his belt this season but overall, the Hendrick teams have been sort of lack luster performers at least so far this season. Although I know they could have a strong performance tonight and make my statements sound kind of empty but, from this fan’s view, they are struggling this season much as the Roush teams have for the past few years.

In fact, the Hendrick teams do appear to be going through some similar things the JGR teams did not all that long ago. Twice this year that we know of, their drivers have had trouble with the steering wheel not being properly locked on the shaft and coming off. It has been such a concern that it has caused them to use different ones starting this weekend at Kansas. One of those times this season it caused Jimmie Johnson to wreck and last weekend, Dale Jr. could have had disastrous results had it happened at a slightly different time and place on the track. That’s just a couple of the little things hounding Hendrick racing this season along with the fact they just haven’t looked like they have in the past when it comes to race days. When you add up all of those little details hounding them, it could explain why they aren’t so dominating on the track, at least, so far.

This could be a break out weekend for Martin Truex Jr. and this fan will admit he is due for a win but it remains to be seen if he will be able to pull it off. The same goes for Matt Kenseth. He just hasn’t been able to catch a break in this first ten races of the season. I’m not going to say the winner of tonight’s race will be a part of JGR but they do look good for it. Of course it could be a night that surprises all of us and someone totally unexpected wins…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 7, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take On Talladega – Restricted of Course from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanTalladega is a super speedway. It was made for speed… well that is until in NASCAR’s opinion and in the name of safety the speeds became too great for everyone to remain safe whether talking about drivers or the fans. There’s something about the cars going well over 200 mph that makes them want to become airplanes and fly into the stands or elsewhere. Even though technology has reduced the dangers of the higher speeds at the real super speedways like Talladega and Daytona, the restrictor plates are still used to limit the speed of the Cup cars and there are pro and con arguments about their continued use.

The drivers often mention they don’t like them because they just can’t pass when they want to even though NASCAR has made numerous changes to the cars to improve the racing. The fans sometimes complain they don’t like the restrictor plates because often during the race the drivers fall in line and play follow the leader for many laps. If someone does manage to break away along with a small group, they can generally pull away as that small group for a while but those behind them generally can work together to catch up. Probably the biggest complaint I hear personally is that they run around for most of the afternoon waiting for the last 10-20 laps while planning their last 2 lap strategy for the end of the race.

As a fan, I like restrictor plate racing for the most part. One of the several things I like about it is how it makes the racing closer than it would be normally because of how the draft works. If someone loses the draft, they drop like a rock until they can join up with someone (or several someones) to be able catch back up.

As a former local short rack stock car driver, I liked those races where the lineups would cause us to run lap after lap, door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper. (Of course I do have to admit I liked it much better when I was either out front or in the second or third row.) Some of the most exciting races I remember were the ones where we would run many laps and no one could move forward or fall back. If you were slower than the one in back of you, they would push you making you go faster. If you were faster than those in front of you, you did the same thing. It was a lot of fun but could get pretty intense, too.

Sometimes – I’m speaking as a fan again – the middle of the race can become a little bit boring if the field decides to kill some laps by running in single file for an extended period of time. There absolutely nothing less exciting than watching 40 fast cars running in single file just knocking out laps until it gets closer to a pit stop or crunch time. For a fan watching from the stands or on TV, the two and three wide racing for an extended period generates much more enthusiasm. Even though it may appear not much is going on, it is at those times people begin to wonder if something might happen to cause a “Big One” like a blown tire or loss of control by one or more of the drivers. It is that intensity of the two and three wide racing that puts many people on the edge of their seats, well, that is until it comes down to the last laps.
I did find it a bit unexpected and interesting that the Toyotas didn’t show up at all in the top ten or twelve during the practice sessions Friday afternoon with the strength they’ve shown over the last few weeks or so. I just didn’t expect to see mostly Chevys and Fords filling in those top positions in the practice. Be that as it may, I do expect to see at least a couple of the Gibbs Toyotas to make themselves known on Sunday afternoon during the race.

It is just so hard to pick a winner in a restrictor plate race and the easiest thing for this fan to do is to not pick one at all and just see what happens. I don’t often like to choose the path of least resistance so I do choose to pick those I think will be contenders when it comes time for the checkered flag to drop at the end of the Geico 500 at Talladega. I do have some favorites I would like to see win but I don’t just want to name those I’d like to see win. I’d much rather pick one and either be right or wrong about it do I can brag a little or hope nobody remembers which one I picked.

This being Talladega and considering the practices and qualifying, I really think it will be one of about four drivers. Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliot and Dale Jr. are right there at the top of my list. I’m going with Dale Jr. to win it but I must admit it is hard choice between those four at least from my view.

It doesn’t really matter which of the 40 drivers I pick to win because this is Talladega and, as with any restrictor plate race, if they’re still in it when it’s time for the checkered flag to drop they still have a chance to win it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 30, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Daytime Short Tracking Plus the Smoke Returns At Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman

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For the third time in four weeks NASCAR takes on a short track and this time it is Richmond in the daytime. That in itself should make for an interesting Sunday afternoon but there is one thing more I am sure has not gone unnoticed by most NASCAR fans…

That’s right; you didn’t even have to guess did you? Tony – Smoke – Stewart is returning to his car as not only the owner but also the driver for the first time since last season. For those that may be wondering why I bring this up, this was supposed to be his last season and he had high hopes of being competitive, possibly even winning another Championship. As it stands right now, he has quite a task before him to even make the Chase let alone be a real contender to win a Championship in his final year of competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Just the fact that Smoke is returning to the driving side of his car is enough to make more people show up to watch, whether at the track or the TV side, simply because they want to know how he will fair and see whether or how his major back injury will affect him and whether or not it is really healed as they say. When it comes to the race, Richmond is a tough track and should show if there are any weak spots in his healing and recovery.

Richmond is usually a night time race so, with this one being in the daytime, it presents some new challenges for the teams, crew chiefs and the drivers as well. On top of all of that, Goodyear brought a different tire to this weekend’s race and it is supposed to (or at least should) improve the way the cars handle and make the racing a little bit more interesting.

Recently at Richmond, it seems that one car has shown up and dominated the race and it is my hope that will not be the case on Sunday afternoon. With the dominance the JGR teams have shown early in this 2016 season, this fan wonders if this might not be a weekend that some other team or teams show a little more strength than they have recently. Judging from the first practice – which was rain shortened – and with no qualifying, the starting lineup may be a little deceptive. It is difficult to say if anyone really has an advantage or if the teams really have a grip on how the track and tires will hold up. The Saturday morning practice was interesting and, from this fan’s view, it was obvious the teams were looking for good information that might carry over to race time Sunday afternoon. Whether they found what they were looking for or not remains to be seen.

Kevin Harvick posted the fastest time in the first practice on Saturday and that gave him the pole position for starting the Toyota Owners 400. Of course my favorite driver to root against, Joey Logano, is starting on the outside pole. It could mean he will be a contender when it comes down to crunch time but it could also mean he won’t even be close if the last couple of finishes or so give any insight into how he might finish. In fact, lately, the two Penske Fords just haven’t shown the same strength on race day they often did last year. I’m not saying they’re in trouble competitively at all but they just haven’t been in the mix at the end like they were last season. This may the weekend they begin to turn that around but, from this fan’s view and judging by what I’ve observed this weekend, I just don’t think that’s the case, (at least not yet.)

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest during the Saturday practice session and he was followed by his team mate Kasey Kahne posting second fastest. It does make this fan wonder if the Hendrick teams might make a strong showing on Sunday afternoon but I’m not sure I’m ready to make a bold statement in that direction. It is a possibility but there is the ever present JGR team of Kyle Bush lurking right behind them after posting the third fastest practice time in Saturday’s practice. He was followed by Kevin Harvick and his team mate Carl Edwards. In fact, there were four Toyotas and five Chevys posting the fastest times in the top ten. Barring the unforeseen, that could mean another dominating day for the JGR teams on Sunday afternoon.

When it comes to Tony Stewart (Smoke) and his return to being a driver in the Sprint Cup series, his practices weren’t stellar but he did put in a lot of laps and, at least to this fan, he was none the worse for wear when the practices were over. Of course the race is 400 laps and 300 miles and I will be interested to not only see where he finishes but how he exits the car when the race is over. The hope is he will come away unscathed and confident about moving on to the next race as far as his back is concerned.

Many are pulling for him to come away with a win at Richmond Sunday afternoon so the only thing he would have to do is work his way into the top thirty in points after that. Judging from his practice times, he is a long shot to win the Toyota Owners 400 but he has as good a shot as anyone else that starts (and finishes) the race to come away the winner. Personally, I don’t think he will win but I am glad to see him back in the lineup…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 23, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

High Banks, High Speed Means Big Action at Bristol from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty NormanI don’t why it is but I do know that no matter what happens at Bristol, almost everyone says the same thing; “That’s Bristol, baby!” Whether it’s an on-track incident or something in the pits, it seems that’s the first words out of just about everyone’s mouth. Bristol is, and always has been, a track with high speed and lots of action. Many attribute the speed and the action to those high banked turns and along with all of it, emotions run high which leads to plenty of action all around the track at all times.

Bristol seems to be a track where anything can happen at any time. It doesn’t matter if it is during practice, qualifying or anytime cars are on the track, anything can happen and it usually does. Take for example the incident between Ty Dillon and Landon Cassill during qualifying. Dillon lost control of his #14 Chevy and spun into the back end of Landon Cassill and Cassill was just slowing down to enter in to the pits after his qualifying run. Both suffered a lot of damage and it was just a case of one of them being the wrong place at the right time. But as usual, most just chalked it up to, “being Bristol.”

There were several incidents that happened during the practice sessions and in qualifying and, if the same holds true during the race on Sunday afternoon, this one could turn out to be a very interesting and action packed 500 laps. With the temperature predicted to being close to 80 degrees during race time, it can only enhance the chances of an intensely emotional, beatin’ and bangin’ time during the Food City 500. This fan expects there will plenty of slippin’ and slidin’ as the concrete surface heats up and takes on rubber and the race progresses.

As I mentioned in my last article, the JGR teams are looking very strong and show up strong consistently week after week. Once again this weekend the JGR teams qualified very well and all four of them are starting in the top five of the starting lineup. If that’s not making some kind of statement, this fan doesn’t know what is. Carl Edwards took his second straight pole and even though that doesn’t mean much at times, it does mean JGR is definitely showing up with winning in mind.

Once again, the bright spot for the Hendrick teams was Jimmie Johnson and he qualified sixth. Kasey Kahne and Dale Jr didn’t fare quite as well but from this fan’s view I don’t expect we can judge where they will finish by how they qualified.

Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing, (and one of the Hendrick associated teams), was the bright spot for SHR by qualifying seventh. No matter how you look at it, it does appear that most of the Hendrick and Hendrick associated teams are struggling a bit even though they have been running decently when it comes to race time.

One thing is pretty evident when it comes to racing at Bristol and that is to expect the unexpected from beginning to end of the race on Sunday afternoon. From my view, picking a winner in the Food City 500 is going to be difficult but it could easily be one of the JGR teams. This may be a break out race for Carl Edwards or it could be three in a row for Kyle Bush. No way will I rule out the possibility of Matt Kenseth turning his luck around and ending up in Victory Lane. I’m not saying he will but there is a good possibility he could.

Several people have already stated they think Denny Hamlin or Joey Logano will end up in Victory Lane but this fan cannot think of two drivers he would rather didn’t win other than the two just mentioned. I don’t know why I feel that way about these two but I do know I do. Maybe someday I will change my opinion but it sure hasn’t happened yet. That’s not to say they can’t win or shouldn’t win but it does say this fan won’t be too disappointed if they don’t.

And then there are all of those other drivers that could or might win. I expect the day to be full of surprises and that could very well carry over to the one that ends up in Victory Lane. From this fan’s view, one thing seems to be certain and that is that this should prove to be one of the most interesting and exciting races so far this year. No matter what happens it will definitely live up to the favorite statement uttered from many a fan’s lips and that would be, “That’s Bristol, baby!!!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 16, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

NASCAR Takes On Texas Under The Lights from a NASCAR Fan’s View

IMG_0131Texas Motor Speedway has been on the NASCAR circuit for twenty years now and the track not only offers unique challenges for the drivers but it has also presented challenges to Goodyear. Along with the rule changes NASCAR set forth for the 2016 season and the abrasiveness of the twenty year old Texas track, Goodyear has made a change to the tires for both the left and right side and so far, at least from this fan’s view, they have once again made a good improvement. Of course time will tell how true that statement actually is but that improvement should make for some very interesting racing in the evening to nighttime Duck Commander 500 on this Saturday night.

Last weekend at Martinsville wasn’t really all that surprising to see Kyle Bush come out the winner. In fact, the Toyotas (especially the Joe Gibbs Toyotas) have made great advances especially in the last year. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Hedrick Chevys were the ones everyone was talking about and how far ahead they were over the rest of the others. Now it appears the talk has shifted to the Toyota camp and, with Carl Edwards winning the pole at Texas, it could be another weekend a Toyota will be celebrating in Victory Lane when this one is over.

Sure, I remember Joey Logano won the pole last week and then proceeded to have a terrible race on Sunday. They just flat missed the setup for the race even though they seemed to hit it just right for the qualifying. Although it is possible for that to happen to Edwards, I just don’t think it will considering the way the Joe Gibbs Toyotas have been running. Carl may not come away with the win but I do expect him to be a force to be reckoned with Saturday night.

The Fords have been slowly improving (or maybe better stated, slowly catching up to the rest of the field) but they just haven’t looked as strong as they did last season, especially the Penske Fords. Oh sure, they’ve made good showings but they just haven’t shown the same strength so far this year as they did last year. Of course it is just this fan’s opinion but the Toyotas have stumbled on a few things that the other teams are still looking for. All of this could do a 180 as the season progresses, but for now, the advantage seems to lean toward the Toyotas. That doesn’t mean the others are outclassed, it just means they aren’t performing quite as consistently well as the Toyotas.

It has been suggested here and there that the new rules package for this season has been more of an equalizer throughout the Cup garage than even NASCAR had hoped it would. I mean, if you look at some of the drivers and teams that are finishing nearer to the front and being talked about more often, something has changed. It could be the new rules package or it could just be all of the changes together making a difference for now. When it comes down to crunch time later on in the season, this fan definitely thinks the usual cream will rise to the top. Admittedly, there is the possibility of seeing a couple of new faces being qualified for the Chase but I don’t really see any big surprises on the horizon, at least not yet.

Taking a look at the starting lineup may make my remarks about the Fords seem a little premature. In the top ten starting positions, four are Toyotas, four are Fords and two are Chevys. Of the four Toyotas, three of them are Joe Gibbs Racing teams and one is Joe Gibbs associated. That just may make my case that this one very well could be won by a Toyota and possibly a JGR Toyota at that. Of course I do know that Logano and Keselowski of Penske are starting in the top ten and I do find it interesting but not definite proof they will end up in Victory Lane.

When all is said and done, the checkered flag has dropped and the engines have fallen silent, I just don’t know who is going to win this one. It could be a new face or it could be one we’ve all seen in Victory Lane many times. No matter how the practices or the qualifying went, I still won’t rule out the possibility of a Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick win. Hey… Did I mention Kyle Bush is starting fifteenth right along side of Dale Jr.? And did I mention either one of them could take the win at Texas Motor Speedway? Well… would that really be so much of a surprise?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 8, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

A Few Thoughts on the First Five and Martinsville From A NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty NormanOkay… this fan has kept silent long enough and it’s time to offer my view of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series so far this year. It is also time to get back into my weekly articles and podcasts (although the podcasts will have to wait a bit longer simply because my voice just won’t cooperate yet. Honestly, it has been a tough couple of months – health wise – and I am more than ready to get back into the swing of things. (Nothing serious going on with my health, I just think my body decided to catch everything it could and get it all over in one long month and a half… ha, ha.)

I’m not sure how some will take my comments and opinion of the racing in the Cup series so far this year and, let me tell you right up front, I welcome your opinions and agreement or disagreement at any time, but, I’m going to give you mine, too.

First of all, I have had a hard time deciding on which of the drivers I would like follow as a favorite. With the retirement of Jeff Gordon, the injuries sustained by Tony Stewart (putting a cramp in his year of retirement) and an overall lack of performance from some others I’d like to see do well, I just haven’t been able to get too excited with anyone yet. In fact, it pains me to see a few that I’ve not been all that fond of anyway over the last couple of years doing better than I would like for them to. That’s just my way of showing you that this fan has drivers he likes and ones he doesn’t even though he does have at least moderate respect for all of them.

Second, the first races of the season weren’t really all that exciting (at least from this fan’s view) and I was really disappointed with it starting at Daytona. Even the 500 was a bit of a letdown to me and it just wasn’t like Daytona’s of the past few years. Throughout the race I kept looking for something to attract or keep my attention but overall, most of the race was rather lack luster until the final few laps. So as fans, we all had to sit through about 490 some miles to get to what some called “an exciting finish!” Honestly, in this fan’s opinion, it wasn’t really worth the wait to see such ho-hum racing for all but the last few laps. I realize in racing it isn’t over until the checkered flag drops but without much of anything going on for most of the race until the last two laps, we might as well just have ten lap sprints and see who comes out on top. At least from my view, that would be much more exciting.

The next two races at Atlanta and Las Vegas were very much like the way things went at Daytona. I, as a fan, sat through all of the laps of the races finding myself having trouble staying interested. If it weren’t for some of the drama going on in the pits both Atlanta and Vegas would have been some of the most unexciting Sprint Cup races I’ve experienced in recent years. If it weren’t for the last couple of laps in both of them I just may have come away with an attitude worse than I already had.

I’m not sure whether it is the new rules package or just because I’ve had trouble staying interested without a favorite to root for to win. It hasn’t helped that some of what I would call my favorites haven’t performed like had hoped they would but so far, something is missing from this season but I’m just not sure what it is yet. It could be me or it could be that the racing just hasn’t been that good in this early part of the season but whatever it is I am hoping it will get better or I may have to take up golf.

Now that I’ve said all of that (and I could say more but I won’t) I would like to say a few words about Martinsville, one of the toughest short tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Although the year is a new year and there are a few new faces around the Sprint Cup side of things in NASCAR, some things never seem to change. Martinsville has all the things drivers and fans alike love about racing. There will be contact, impatience and tempers that flare. All of those things are what so many love about their own local short tracks and that is the drama, intensity and emotion that goes with the territory. As all of us that grew up around our local short tracks know, “rubbin’ is racing” and there will be plenty of that at Martinsville Sunday afternoon.

Although some have already made their choice for taking the win, I am still a little undecided. There has been talk of Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson taking the win simply because of their past performances. Those are all good choices but I’m not so sure this Sunday’s race won’t be won by the likes of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliot or maybe even Carl Edwards. Martinsville has often been a place of surprises and I think this weekend could prove to be as surprising as any. I would be a bit surprised if either Larson or Elliot wins their first race in the Sprint Cup series but I refuse to discount the possibility of someone like Jimmie Johnson taking home another Grandfather Clock when this one is over…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 2, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

2015 – One Era Ends and a New One Begins from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman

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Kyle Bush won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and did it by winning the last race of the 2015 season. He wasn’t always out front and didn’t necessarily dominate the race but, when it counted, he and his team came through with a dominating performance for the last several laps of the Ford Ecoboost 400. Kevin Harvick was in his mirror for those final laps but never really pressed Kyle at all for the victory and finished second in the race and in the standings.

Those are some of the historical facts of the finale at Homestead in this 2015 NASCAR Cup season. It was also the end of an era. Jeff Gordon ran his last race in the Cup series and is retiring now that the race is over. He won’t necessarily disappear and ride off into the sunset and he won’t likely become invisible anytime soon but his life will be different and so will the NASCAR Cup series. Fortunately for all Jeff Gordon fans he will be in the broadcast booth next season with Fox Sports and will still be involved with Hendrick Motorsports and Rick Hendrick for the foreseeable future.

There isn’t much that’s left to say about Jeff Gordon, his career and what he brought to NASCAR because, from this fan’s view, everybody and their brother (including their sisters) has said so much about the life and times of Jeff Gordon. Much was said over the entire season but most of it was said in the last several weeks as the time drew near for this, his final race in the NASCAR Cup series. It seemed to this fan that everyone had something to say about Jeff Gordon and 99.99% of it was definitely positive (and trust me, nobody is concerned about that .01% that may not have been.)

This fan is old enough to remember when Jeff Gordon broke into the Cup series (and honestly it doesn’t seem all that long ago.) Along with many other long time NASCAR fans, I wasn’t that much of a fan of his at first. He was just a kid coming in and we all had our own favorites at the time that we had followed for many years. I even remember that I wasn’t happy with him for the way he departed his ride in the Bush series and felt that he dumped them for an opportunity that wouldn’t amount to much. Besides, I still had my old favorites that I wanted to see keep on winning and his entry into the Cup Series was little more than a media distraction. I have to be honest with you and say that I didn’t think he was going to make it and in his first year, not all that much was said about him other than what often are considered, “honorable mentions” and that was about it, (well… at least from this fan’s view and memory that’s what it was.)

It wasn’t long before my attitude began to change. Like all tried and true NASCAR fans I paid attention to, not only his accomplishments on the track but also, how he represented himself after a race and away from the track. Believe me, nobody is perfect and Jeff Gordon wasn’t either but there was something different about him that began to, and kept on attracting my attention. I still had my old favorites but he was beginning to impress me in many ways and particularly on the track. I made a point to pay attention to what was written about him as his time in the Cup series began to add up and I found that he was quite a talented driver even as young as he was. I knew early on he had won at least 600 races before hitting the Cup Series and I thought that was impressive to say the least.

After his first couple of years in the Cup Series I have to admit I was watching him closely and eventually became one of his biggest fans even though I still held on to some of the ones I had been a fan of for a long time. It was obvious “the Kid” had talent but just his winning races wasn’t the only thing that impressed me. It was the fact he was a real person, he displayed emotion and exhibited his competitive spirit in more than one way, including getting in someone’s face when necessary. On the track he showed what he was capable of and that he had the talent to win and win often. I even remember Dale Earnhardt, Sr. once said after a race, “… that just goes to show “the Kid” can win with anyone as his crew chief,” and I don’t think that meant The Intimidator was intimidated by him but that he did have respect for his talents even though he was young.

The four-time Cup Champ was and is a legend in his own time and represented NASCAR with honor and Class. He never lost sight of those that came before him and made a lasting impact on the sport he loves and he did everything he could to be a good representative of NASCAR as a Champion, a driver, a mentor to drivers coming into the sport and an ambassador for NASCAR Stock Car racing in general. Jeff Gordon will always be a Champion no matter what direction his life takes him from this point forward.

Kyle Bush wasn’t one of my favorite drivers until the last few years. I don’t know what it was about him but I just never really liked him all that much. I don’t think it was because of his age but it could have been because he seemed to me to be a whiner in his early Cup career. It was obvious he had a lot of talent and a lot of natural ability when it came to car control. Even though he was showing moments of exceptional talent, he was also often showing his obvious lack of maturity – from this fan’s view it was like he was trying to show everyone he deserved what he had not yet earned. His first years in the Cup Series he just didn’t impress me and I had concerns as to what kind of a representative of the NASCAR Cup Series he might be if he won a Championship. He was and is very talented and, as I said in the last article, he has become very likeable in many ways.

I noticed a difference in him over the last two or three years in particular and watched his progress throughout this challenging year with great interest. As just an observation from this fan’s view, I think his meeting his wife had a great deal to do with where he is and what he has become over the last couple of years. There is absolutely something to be said about having a good and strong woman beside you, helping you and making you better along the way. Believe me; I know this is true simply because of the blessing and strength my wife of thirty-six years has been to me. She has made me a better person over all and I am thankful for her. Of course, I think his joining Joe Gibbs Racing has had something to do with his success also as well as the person he has and is becoming.

Unlike some of his detractors that have never set foot in a race car or never faced a possible life altering accident or challenge, I have absolutely no problem with the fact that NASCAR allowed him to compete for the Championship this year even though he missed the first eleven races of the season. He had that horrendous accident at Daytona in February and many wondered if he would ever be able to drive again or at least be competitive. He worked hard to get himself back into the race car as quickly as possible. He met all of the criteria they laid down for him to be able to compete by winning three races and working his way into the top thirty in points to qualify for being in the Chase.

Kyle Bush showed great determination to accomplish the necessary things he had to accomplish so he could be a contender in the Chase for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and he drove his heart out to win the race and become the 2015 Champion. Though some don’t think he deserves to be there, this fan is not one of those. He is every bit as much a Champion and winner as anyone that ever was or is in NASCAR. This fan thinks he will make a great Cup Champion and will represent the sport extremely well.

As this 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season draws to a close, we see one era coming to an end. Jeff Gordon is departing the Cup Series with style and class and like the Champion he has been over these twenty- three years. Without a doubt he is destined to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will be remembered as one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history and rightfully so. He has been a great Champion and will be remembered as such for a long time.

The end of one era usually heralds a new one and the possibilities moving forward are vast. There are a lot of great drivers now and this fan knows there are more coming. Although it is unknown which one of the present or future drivers might be the next “great one” there are several waiting in the wings to prove themselves. To name a few would be, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and others. Kyle Bush is one to watch and watch closely in the years ahead and this could just as likely be the beginning of the Kyle Bush era as any of those I just mentioned. Congratulations to Kyle Bush, the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 24, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s One and Done at Homestead from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman

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The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship is unique to itself and the Championship race itself is too. One of the most interesting things about this final race for the 2015 season is that none of the four running for the Championship has to win. The only thing one of them has to do is finish in front of the other three. Of course if you ask the four competing for the Sprint Cup Championship you’ll find none of them are approaching this race any differently than they would any other elimination race in the Chase – that’s right … they want to win!

As a longtime NASCAR fan I find it very interesting that four drivers compete with each other for the Championship while competing with thirty-nine others that could possibly win but their winning doesn’t have any effect on the outcome of the Championship. The champion comes from which of the four left competing for the Sprint Cup finishes ahead of the other three. Any way you look at it that is definitely different than any other sport I know of.

The 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship has been one of the most intense, dramatic and emotional Chases this fan has ever experienced and the race this weekend at Homestead won’t be any different. The four drivers, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush, Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon all have unique stories surrounding them as they have competed and qualified for the Championship round throughout this season and any of their stories would be a crowning moment on their season and careers. None of these four were necessarily expected to be where they are this weekend considering how their seasons started and progressed throughout the year.

We all know the stories surrounding these final four and that’s pretty much all we’ve heard about all week long from every known talking head since last Sunday’s race finally ended at Phoenix. There is still a lot of talk of how these four shouldn’t even be competing for the Sprint Cup and that had NASCAR made “the right decision” there would probably be a little different look to the final four. Of course this fan suspects the main reason for those thoughts is because their driver didn’t make it in. It is true the calling of the race because of rain did affect one or two of the finalists but, from this fan’s view, the ones that should be competing for the Championship this year are the ones that are. I’m not saying that just because the ones I wanted to be there are but because they deserve to be there and everything they did throughout the year and the Chase has put them there. Circumstances aside, these four drivers and teams worked hard to be where they are.

I know you know all the stories surrounding these four drivers but a quick review is in order, well… at least from the way this fan sees them.

Kevin Harvick has overcome many adversities to be where he is this weekend and no one can say his team gave up when negative things happened to them week in and week out. The driver and his entire team seemed to thrive on adversity and their determination to put them in the final four. Even this weekend, Harvick didn’t qualify as well as he hoped he would but he isn’t moping around hoping things go better, he is looking at where they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished this season. He is contending for his second Sprint Cup Championship in a row and has a very good chance at repeating.

Martin Truex Jr. surprised many by making the Chase as a single car team and he and his team have performed well enough to make it through the three rounds leading up to this one to be strong contenders for taking the Cup Championship which would be his first. Many consider him to be the dark horse in this one and probably rightly so – he only has three victories to his credit so far in his Cup career but winning on Sunday is not out of his reach.

Kyle Bush is a different Kyle Bush than he was a few years ago. He has matured over that time and has handled the adversity of this season with determination and class. From this fan’s view, determination has never been his weakness but me using the word “class” to describe him is new. As I said, he has matured and become more likeable over the last couple of years. After his accident at Daytona at the beginning of the season, no one thought he would be in the Chase, let alone competing for the Sprint Cup in the finale. He has had his best Chase performance ever and he is going for his first Cup Championship in this one and he and his team worked hard, won races and did everything they had to do to be where they are this weekend.

That brings us to the four-time Champion, Jeff Gordon. He has had what many consider to be an up and down year. After some of the trials and tribulations he and his team faced throughout this year, not too many thought he would make it to the final four at Homestead this weekend to compete for his fifth Cup Championship. In fact, there were those that didn’t think he would even have a win in this, his last year in NASCAR let alone make it into the Chase. In typical Jeff Gordon fashion, he came through when it counted and his win at Martinsville, the teams overall consistency throughout the year and some sheer determination on all their parts put them in the finale and he has a chance to be successful in his Drive for Five.

It will definitely be “one and done” for more than one reason at Homestead this weekend. This has been the most dramatically intense and emotional Chase since they instituted this format into the mix and I expect it to be nothing less on Sunday afternoon. Forty-three cars competing for a win, four drivers of those forty-three competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and a four time Champion trying to retire while on top – Can it get any better than this? This fan doesn’t think so…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 21, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

After Phoenix Damage Assessment from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman

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Well, the final four are set for Homestead and many came away from the Phoenix race with mixed emotions. It was an unusual day at the track in the desert and the race scheduled for daytime turned into a night time race. Rather than it coming down to a white knuckle, edge-of-your-seat finish at the end of the race, it was the relentlessness of the on and off rain that proved to be the undoing of four of the ones hoping to move on to the Championship race. I’m not going to say it was a great race but it did turn out to be an interesting one. Even after the multi hour rain delay…

From this fan’s view, I think the one damaged the most by the race being called because of rain was Carl Edwards. Of the four that were trying to race their way into the final four, he was the only one that really had a chance to point his way in and he was running ahead of Martin Truex Jr. when it was called – just not far enough ahead. He was only able to gain two of the seven points he needed and, because of the race being called, he finished five points behind Truex and was eliminated. That was unfortunate but he’s not the only one that the calling of a race because of rain has ever happened to except that this one happened in the final elimination race in the Chase. It may have been a unique circumstance but it was still a consistent call by NASCAR according to the rules.

As for Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano not making it into the finale, well… the way the eight in the Elimination round were running, they really only had once chance and that was to win. Either way it went between them, the other one of the two Penske teams was going to be eliminated. There has since been a lot of speculation about the “what if” factor and how it might have changed things had there been a re-start after another extended track drying delay, (which, by the way, could have been another couple of hours.) A lot of the speculation appeared to be based on the fact that Joey Logano was in third place and could have possibly passed the two in front of him and won the race, putting him in the finale.

Okay, let’s just say they did have another re-start and Logano had another chance at taking the lead. How would’ve Logano handled that re-start? Would he have “done whatever it took to win” which he previously proved it could mean taking those ahead of him out rather than, “racing them for the win?” I find it interesting that Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski put on quite a performance last weekend at Texas showing how drivers could race each other using the same tactics of blocking and intimidating but never touching. Listening to Logano after the race at Phoenix when he was asked what he would have done if there had been another re-start he answered quite directly that he would have done whatever it took to win. I don’t know what that meant to him but to this NASCAR fan that meant he just might drive through them to win. It makes me wonder if he is still as arrogant as he sounded after the incident with Kenseth and learned nothing from it or whether he would do it differently. I guess we’ll never know for sure, the rain ended that. Personally, I don’t think he was going to win anyway but we’ll never know for sure about that either. Oh well…

Kurt Bush put himself in a hole right from the drop of the green flag when NASCAR called him on a little remembered rule about the start of a race and how the pole sitter cannot be passed until after he – (or she for that matter) – crosses the start/finish line. That rule only applies to the start of a race and not the re-starts. Somehow, this fan thinks that rule might be revisited during the off-season. It may or may not be changed but I personally think it will come up in discussion at some point before things pick backup at Daytona in February. Personally it doesn’t matter much to this fan which way they decide that one.

To his credit Kurt did do everything he could to catch back up but when the rain returned, it all came to nothing and he wasn’t going to be moving on to the Championship round. He just couldn’t overcome the deficit caused by being in the wrong place at the right time at Martinsville. Even though he was in seventh position when the Phoenix race was called, it wasn’t enough to move him up in points and besides, he needed to win or everyone else needed to end up in the garage to make a place for him in the final four without the win.

I hate to keep bringing this up but, Kurt Bush not making the final four is just another example of what this fan considers started the much talked about actions at Martinsville between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth. Matt was in second place when Brad Keselowski ran into him and took him out for whatever reason on that day. Kenseth had most of the blame placed on his shoulders for what followed but this is what I considered to be the final straw that caused him to decide it was time for a little payback, not only to Logano but the whole Penske organization in particular; (and just as a side note, I don’t think he made the decision totally on his own, although I could be wrong.)

Of course, now all of the talking heads use as one of their main talking points how Matt Kenseth changed the whole outcome of the Championship by his actions in taking out Logano. If that were the case and NASCAR thought it was, it is my opinion they would have re-instated Logano like they did Jeff Gordon a couple of years ago after the actions of Michael Waltrip Racing. I really do think they saw more of the total picture and the way things added up over time and that Martinsville was everything coming to a head at once. They determined they had to take action and do something and they did, but they also left the door open, at least for now.

I don’t know; I may be giving them too much credit but I do think they understand things better than we as fans think they do at times. The decisions they make are hard and at times, it does appear they are inconsistent in those decisions and some of their calls but if they didn’t make those calls when they do, would we really have much else to talk or complain about? Hmmm, I wonder…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 18, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions