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It’s Atlanta And Two To Go To Make the Chase

Published August 31, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Anyone that doesn’t have enough points but wants to make it into the Chase only has two chances left. Atlanta and Richmond are the only two places left for non winners to take a win and make it into the Chase. Of course, there are still four spots left but two of them will make it in with points. That means Atlanta will definitely be a place where some will take more risks to try and steal a spot in the Chase and that has the potential to make this weekend even more dramatic and competitive that it would be normally.

Another thing that makes this weekend noticeably more dramatic is that Tony Stewart is returning to the #14 Stewart/Haas Chevy this weekend. For some, that is something they did not want to see (for whatever their reasons were) but for the rest of us, it is a good thing. He needs to be back in his car and competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. After the terrible accident several weeks ago that took the life of a fellow competitor, this fan thinks this is the best thing for him to help him heal both mentally and spiritually. As he said in his public appearance and statement Friday, it was something that has changed his life forever and will always be with him.

This weekend in Atlanta is one of only two more chances he has to make it into the 2014 Chase. Without a win he will not make it in because he does not have enough points otherwise. That makes the next two races even more important for him and his #14 team and he will be looking to win one or both of them (which he is more than capable of doing.) Whatever happens in the next two weeks, this fan wants nothing but the best for all concerned.

Atlanta is an old track even though it was reconfigured years ago and it remains as one of the most challenging tracks on the Cup circuit. It is fast and is tough on equipment and tires and two things stand out to this fan as possible “challenges” for the competitors this weekend. The first is just how fast the speeds fall off with the tires and the other is the possibility of engine failure.

Along with the speeds falling off because of tire wear, this fan is at least a little concerned about possible tire failures. With the speeds they are running and the down force being generated by the cars this year, it is possible the ugly beast of tire failures could rear its ugly head again this weekend. Even though it hasn’t happened yet this weekend, it is probably still in the back of the drivers and crew chiefs minds. Fortunately, at least from this fan’s view, they are running at night and that could make all the difference.

This won’t be new news to anyone but this weekend marks another milestone in the career of Jeff Gordon. Atlanta will be his 750th start in a row and is where he started his first Cup race 20 years ago. Considering he is a four time Cup Champion and having a great run at his fifth, there is no doubt he is having, and has had, a great career and many expect it to continue for a while yet. This fan is one of those.

Is it possible Jeff Gordon can get win #92 this weekend and carry even more momentum into the Chase? Without a doubt he is one among several that can win not only Atlanta but Richmond and beyond. Barring the unforeseen (like last weekend at Bristol) and things happening to him that are out of his control, I like his chances for finishing in the top five at Atlanta and possibly taking the win and solidifying his #1 spot in the Chase. Judging from the way he has been running this year, it may a bit of a stretch but not unimaginable he could finish the season this year with his fifth Cup Championship and 95 wins, maybe more.

When it comes to Labor Day weekend and the Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, there are many things to consider. Take for example, Matt Kenseth and his #20 Toyota. It does appear the Toyotas have shown up with some speed this weekend and Matt Kenseth did have one of the fastest trips around the little over 1.5 mile oval. It could mean he might get his first win for the 2014 season and lock himself into the Chase with the win. Unless complete disaster strikes over the next two weeks, he is locked in by points. I suppose total disaster could strike just looking at how things have gone for his teammate Kyle Bush but it’s not likely. What is more likely is him taking a trip to Victory Lane at least once over the next two weeks.

The Fords have once again shown up with speed and one of them could end up in Victory Lane when the checkered flag drops at the end of the 500 miles tonight. Both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have shown their Fords can get around the track with enough speed to get there and so did Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. From this fan’s view, it will take more than a fast lap or two to make that trip to Victory Lane a reality tonight. It will take consistently traversing the 1.5 mile oval at Atlanta with the best lap times. Unfortunately for the Fords and Toyotas, (at least in this fan’s opinion), the ones that displayed that were the Hendrick powered machines of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon and this fan thinks one of them will end up taking home the trophy tonight… The question is, which one…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© August 30, 2014 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

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

It’s Crunch Time For Some Under The Lights At Bristol

Published August 23, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Like it or not, there are four spots left to be filled for The Chase and only three weeks of racing left before The Chase actually starts. It is possible that any one of those places, or all four of those places, could be filled by non-winners. It is also possible that all but one of them could be filled by three new winners in the 2014 season. Since there are 16 available places and 12 different winners so far on the year, the four remaining spots remain to be filled and that means it’s crunch time when the cup teams hit the track this Saturday night under the lights at Bristol.

Unless disaster completely strikes his team, Matt Kenseth will likely get in by points even if he doesn’t win a race. The problem is that he hasn’t had very good finishes lately and he’s lost some of his points cushion. If he wins this race, he’s in simply because of the win and not because of his points position. The way things have been going for him and his team lately, I think he would rather win so that he doesn’t have to worry about it for the next two weeks after Bristol, (but that’s just this fan’s opinion.)

Greg Biffle is probably the one sweating the most bullets because, winning aside, his chances are a bit precarious at this point. Since the Roush Fords haven’t been performing all that well lately, he would like to have a win just to lock himself in. As it is right now, him having a spot in The Chase is by no means guaranteed. With a win at Bristol, his situation would change completely.

The real drama in the qualifying for The Chase situation comes from the fact that even though there are 16 qualifiers right now (12 of them winners, four of them not) and if someone outside of those listed in the top 16 wins, even though some may have a point advantage over them, the win overrides the points when it comes to qualifying for The Chase. That’s just another reason why it’s crunch time for many that haven’t any wins yet this year. Even though there are only four spots remaining, the possibilities are mind-boggling at the least…

Once again this weekend it appears the Toyotas are struggling a bit. Even though they say their biggest problem is that they’re missing horsepower, from this fan’s view it appears they’re missing a few other things also. In this fan’s opinion they’re still a little bit behind the eight ball in several areas. Only one of those would be speed or the lack thereof. There just doesn’t seem to be that consistency they’ve had in the past. Maybe the easiest thing to say is it appears that they’re “struggling” at the moment.

Now that I’ve said some negative things about the Toyotas, especially in the JGR camp, it isn’t a good thing to count Kyle Busch out for winning the race this weekend or Denny Hamlin for that matter. Either one of them could surprise us and, even though it appears they just don’t have the horses under the hood, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that either one of them could end up in Victory Lane. There is a great possibility Matt Kenseth could do the same, also.

Though Clint Boyer has been struggling a bit this year, he and his team have been working hard and making progress and it shows in their finishes lately. If I were going to name someone that would be my biggest surprise as far as winning this race it would be a tossup between Clint Boyer or Marcos Ambrose.

I think I just detected an audible gasp out there when I mentioned the name Marcos Ambrose. I can understand that, but it is true, Marcos Ambrose could win the Bristol night race. In fact I would go so far as to say, other than a road course win, this race at Bristol is probably one of his better chances to win on an oval track. I know we all think of him as being a road course specialist and he proves that every year but, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities to think that he could take his first victory in Sprint cup on an oval right here at Bristol.

When it comes to Saturday night at Bristol it is this fan’s opinion that Ryan Newman probably needs the victory worse than any of the others I mentioned. He has been struggling throughout the year so far but in actuality his performance hasn’t been that bad. Winning at Bristol, or at either of the other tracks in the coming two weeks, would be a great boost to him and his team, (and that includes the boost it would give to his boss, Richard Childress.)

Just a couple of quick thoughts before I close this out. It is quite likely that the fastest line around the track will continue to be up near the wall. That means that is going to be hard to pass. It doesn’t mean there won’t be any passing going on, it just means with the fastest groove being near the top close to the wall, there’s really not a good place for passing to take place. Well… That is unless you consider the passing that can take place in the pits. Yessir, this race could possibly be won, or lost, by the actions of the pit crews and the things that happen in the pits…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 23, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s All About Pure Speed for the Pure Michigan 400

Published August 16, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

If you listened to the Ford drivers coming into this weekend you would’ve heard some of them say that they had found speed – and not just a little bit of it. True to their word, they came into this weekend showing a bit more speed than they did the last visit to MIS. Perhaps what they didn’t count on was the fact that the Chevys also found more speed and even though the Fords are faster, so are the Chevys. What that means going into this weekend is a bit unknown at this point to this fan but, it could mean that once again the Chevys will come out on top over the Fords.

The Toyotas are either sandbagging until they get to The Chase or they just don’t have the horsepower under the hood yet. It seems to be the biggest complaint coming out of the Toyota camp. Several of the Toyota drivers have been heard to say that they just need more horsepower so they can keep up or pass those with Hendrick horsepower under the hood. So far, it appears their search for more horsepower goes on.

It’s definitely all about pure speed this weekend at the Michigan International Speedway for the pure Michigan 400 and that’s what it will take to win. In fact, just in case you weren’t paying attention during the practice sessions and the qualifying session, the track record was broken by about 32 of the 43 cars that qualified for this race and Jeff Gordon set the new track record for the Michigan International Speedway. No matter what others might say, at least 32 of the teams are going faster than the last or previous track record setter and if that ain’t pure speed, this fan doesn’t know what is…

The race on Sunday afternoon at MIS could be interesting and yet boring at the same time, (well, at least from this fan’s view.) I know that sounds like a strange thing to say but it’s true. One thing about the Cup races at MIS is that they have a tendency to be a bit boring at least until they get near the end. The reason that this fan would say something like that is because the speeds may be high but the racing isn’t always that interesting.

Often, this race is about consistent lap times, gaining spots while in the pits along with the fuel and tire strategies that go along with those stops. It appears the tires that Goodyear brought to MIS don’t give up that much and actually run faster speeds after a few laps than they do when they put them on as stickers. It appears they need a lap or two to begin bringing out the best they have to offer.

Although it remains to be seen how all of the different engines will hold up to the demands of this track, it is possible there could be some engine failures before this one is over simply because the engines don’t get much time to rest. They run lap after lap at almost full throttle and the RPMs hardly ever drop that much.

Unfortunately, because there is a tendency for two things to happen during the race this is not one of this fan’s favorite races. The first thing about this race is that, though they can and do use the draft, the racing can become a bit boring simply because no one can pass with regularity. Now that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any passing. What it does mean is that the faster cars will be able to move forward to a certain point while the slower cars fall back. Still, the fastest cars will be at the front and, as long as the leader is in clean air, he (or possibly she) will be hard to catch or pass. The second thing (at least to this fan) is that the pit stops and the strategies for them is often more interesting and dramatic than the actual racing, especially during the middle laps of the race.

One thing that could make this race more interesting than usual is the fact that it’s really not about points, or at least not that much. For several that want to make The Chase it’s all about winning. For those that are already in The Chase, or already have wins, it’s more about winning than anything else. Wins add up to better point’s position when The Chase actually starts and, compared to wins, points don’t really matter that much at this point. As an example, Jeff Gordon sits second in points but if The Chase started today, because of the number of wins he has compared to others, he would be moved further down the list.

It is very possible that someone in the top 25 in points without a win at the moment could take the trip to Victory Lane Sunday afternoon. Although I don’t expect that to happen it is one of the things that will make this race more interesting. Just the thought that says that someone who doesn’t really have a chance of making The Chase because of their points standing actually making it because they win, adds to the drama and excitement of this particular Pure Michigan 400.

By the way, does anyone know what’s going on with the number 48 team these days?

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© August 16, 2014 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

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

Who’ll Make It Happen At The Glen?

Published August 9, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Just about every talking head or commentator has made the same or similar statement this week and just in case you missed it, here it is again – “With only five races to go, who will make it happen at The Glen this weekend?” It seems like no one (including me) can come up with anything else to say, at least from this fan’s view. Then again, it is true, there are just five weeks left until we start the Chase (and as some have said, “It’s the new, improved Chase.”)

There’s really not anything new that could be talked about when it comes to The Glen except for the fact that this year the Cup cars are going faster than they’ve ever gone at this track before. There are a lot of reasons for that but none that we really need to go into because they’ve been talked about almost every week of the 2014 NASCAR season. Yes, we all know it’s because of the way that the down force has been changed on the cars this year and the ride height rules being changed. I guess it could also be because of the Goodyear tires, the increased horsepower coming out of all of the camps and just about anything else about we can think of about the Cup cars. One factor I do want to mention is that it appears that the drivers are really beginning to like a lot of things about these cars even though they have something to complain about every week.

When it comes to road course racing, this fan has always liked The Glen. There are many reasons why I like it but I don’t need to go into those. The Glen is a fast-track and the drivers can be aggressive as they make lap after lap trying to work their way towards the front. It is also a track that demands respect from the drivers and there are places they can overdrive and the track offers no forgiveness. One thing stands out very clear to this fan… Barring the unforeseen, this is going to be a strategy and fuel mileage race unless the absolute unforeseen happens. The biggest unforeseen would be an unusual number of cautions, at least from this fan’s view.

As everyone already knows, Jeff Gordon qualified on the pole and could also have a very good chance of winning the race Sunday afternoon. Still, it seems no matter how well Jeff performs, many still want to call him the “old man.” Though it is true that he is 43 there is no doubt in this fan’s mind that he’s as competitive as ever. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he’s even more competitive than he’s been in a long time. I’m sure some of that has to do with the fact of how well he and his team are performing this year but I also think it is because it’s just Jeff Gordon and the way he’s always been. One thing is pretty obvious, he’s not driving like the old man that many say he is…

Even though he’s had a good weekend and is sitting on the pole there is still no guarantee that Jeff Gordon and the 24 team will end up in Victory Lane when all is said and done Sunday afternoon. There are several drivers that intend to make it difficult for him to make it a run from the pole to Victory Lane. In particular and the most obvious ones would be Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger and Kevin Harvick, to mention a few. There are others but I think that will suffice because any one of those three could make Jeff’s task very difficult on this Sunday afternoon.

Included in the drama of the race at The Glen for Sunday afternoon are the plain facts that there are several people that need a win to almost guarantee themselves a spot in The Chase. Topping the list is Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne and followed by several that really don’t want to not be included. Although there is a possibility that a couple of unknowns could end up in the Chase simply by winning, it is more likely from this fan’s view that the field is pretty much set except for maybe one or two. If you’re going to ask me who those two are, I’ll have to answer that I just don’t know. What I do know is that the next five races , including this one, are going to be very interesting especially as the field gets set for the “new and improved Chase.”

Just a quick mention of how this fan thinks the race will go Sunday afternoon. Even though we’ve mentioned this many times, there will be mixed strategies as the day progresses and barring an unusual number of cautions there will be a set number of green flag pit stops the teams will be making. What happens during those pit stops and barring any equipment failures this should prove to be a very fast and stressful race, especially for those that need a win.

It’s pretty definite that Jeff Gordon is on a roll and Brad Keselowski is looking to flex a little bit of Ford muscle from the Penske camp. That’s not even to mention his teammate Joey Logano and the fact that Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards would like to show something from the Roush camp. With the speeds that everyone is running, a lot of things can happen and probably will and just about anyone in the field has a chance to win depending on how things go and where the cautions actually fall.

It’s true we are coming down to crunch time as far as The Chase is concerned and exactly how it’s going to turn out I don’t think anyone knows. One thing is fairly certain about this race though and that would be the fact that someone is going to make it happen at the Glen… it just remains to be seen who that will be…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 9, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s Pocono and Six To Go to the Chase

Published August 2, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Counting Pocono, it’s six to go to make the show. From this fan’s view, that makes Pocono a “have to win” for some and a “I want to win” for others. No matter what happens Sunday afternoon at the Pocono International Speedway, the die is set for many when it comes to the Chase and for others, there’s still some big question marks.

It has been an interesting week especially with the findings and penalties that NASCAR found and assessed to the #11 car from Joe Gibbs racing. With all of those things taken into consideration that does mean that Denny Hamlin will be without his normal crew chief, Darian Grubb, and he has been docked some points. Since he has a win already, the docked points don’t matter that much and, the way things are being handled by JGR, no matter how things turn out, Darian Grubb should be back for the first race of the Chase. In the past, Denny has run good at Pocono (although not particularly well lately) so it should prove to be interesting to see how he does in this weekend’s race.

Once again the rumblings have started in the garage area (and in the media tents) about how poorly Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are performing lately and everybody’s wondering if they’ve lost their touch. Personally, this fan finds that hard to believe and since they already have three wins, their performance at this point doesn’t really matter that much. It is more likely, at least from this fan’s view, that they’re experimenting which they have been known to do in the past. I suspect they have some things they want to know for when they start the Chase. In reality, they have nothing to lose in experimenting with several different things before the Chase and they don’t have to tie up time practicing at tracks that don’t matter.

Once again this weekend the Penske Fords of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have shown up with some horses under the hood and performance on the track. Now that doesn’t mean that Sunday’s race is a lock for them by any means but it does mean that they should be contenders for the win. Of course there are several that don’t want to see them perform well and it really doesn’t have anything to do with the Hendrick teams. (Well, let me rephrase that slightly… It may matter for the Hendrick team of Kasey Kahne.) What it really has to do with is those that need a win to better their chances of being in the Chase and the last thing they want to see is someone that’s already won this year getting another win.

There is still a lot of buzz about Jeff Gordon’s victory at the Brickyard last weekend and many are wondering if he’s going to take it all the way to the championship at Homestead. Although many of us would like to see Jeff win his fifth championship, this fan chooses not to jump that far ahead and I’m sure that Jeff Gordon will agree. It is more likely he will take one race at a time and, since he’s already in the Chase, he will likely just be going for wins over anything else. In fact, it’s rumored that he said this last week that it’s all about winning now that the pressure is off for making the Chase. I have to admit, I didn’t actually hear him say that but it does make sense.

From this fan’s view, Pocono is a race that can go both ways. What I mean by saying that is it can either be really exciting or really boring especially at the end. It does appear that everyone has a little better grip on the track than they had back in the first part of June because everyone seems to be running a little faster. It doesn’t appear that anyone has a real extreme, dominating advantage for this race but it does appear that the Penske Fords have as good a chance as anybody to dominate the race. I’m not discounting the fact that Hendrick horsepower has shown up in usual fashion but the key to winning this race is going to be consistent lap times and minimum, or no, mistakes.

Track position will be the key and there won’t be room for error at all in the pits, which is usually the case these days. Also, there is no room for the drivers to make mistakes entering or leaving the pits. It is highly likely that this could turn into a fuel mileage race (although I hope not) and that could also make the ending very exciting depending on how far everyone has gone to press the envelope for the fuel window to maintain good track position.

With six races left to go to make the Chase, there are those that seem to think there’s plenty of time left for those three or four in particular that need a win to get one and solidify their place in the Chase. There is a possibility that there could be six different and new winners between now and the start of the Chase (although that’s not too likely.) I do think there will be at least two or three drivers that haven’t won yet this year that will win in the next six races. Of course, that’s just this fan’s opinion… but it is a good one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 2, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Brickyard – 2014

Published July 27, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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The Brickyard… There’s no place like it and even the NASCAR Cup drivers speak almost as highly of it is they do of Daytona. Of course these days it’s not what it used to be because it’s not bricks all the way around anymore. But there is still that yard of bricks at the finish line and the NASCAR drivers do take the time to, “kiss the bricks” when they win there.

What is it about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that it is held in such high regard and with such fondness by so many drivers and fans throughout the world? Is it because of some kind of magic or magical spell or, is it just because of all of the things that have taken place there? From this fan’s view, I believe it’s the latter and that’s what makes the Brickyard so special. It has a long history and continues to be a place that makes history and that’s what captures the imaginations and attention of race fans of all types everywhere.

Well… I guess that’s enough reminiscing for now. After all, this is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hendrick horsepower made a very strong showing again this weekend. Between Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon (and really, the rest of the Hendrick and Stewart/Haas teams) you might say that the chances are very good that some of that Hendrick horsepower could end up sitting in Victory Lane when the race is over this afternoon. There are a few things that cause me to lean towards that determination and one is that Chevys been known to run very good at the Brickyard. Now, I’m not just saying that; the facts speak really well for themselves. Does that mean that I think that the two that are sitting on the front row have a very good chance of winning this afternoon? Well… It could appear that way but honestly, I’m not so sure.

Four hundred miles at IMS is a long way from beginning to end and anything can happen between the first lap and the last lap. Although it is not outside the realm of possibility (and truthfully, it has been done before) starting on the front row could mean ending up in Victory Lane at the end of the day. Both Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon are quite capable of leading a race from beginning to end, possibly even more so if we’re talking about Kevin Harvick these days. He has been running strong all year and this weekend has been no different for him and the entire number four team. Oh, and by the way, he is starting on the pole.

There are those that say that Jeff Gordon is getting too old to win and that his days are numbered. It’s true, he is getting older but from this fan’s view and in this fan’s opinion, he is as competitive as he’s ever been this year and his standing in the points proves it. He is, after all, going after his fifth victory at the Brickyard and trying to take is fifth cup championship this year. He could very well end up in Victory Lane this afternoon and this fan wouldn’t be all that surprised if he did.

Admittedly, there are several others that intend to make it difficult for Kevin Harvick or Jeff Gordon to end up in Victory Lane on this Sunday afternoon in Indiana. One of those is Jimmie Johnson, and just to keep it in the Hendrick camp, Kasey Kahne would be another. And while I’m at it, I might as well say Dale Junior. Although it’s true he’s been struggling all weekend, it is also true that he and his crew chief Steve Letarte are quite capable of making the necessary changes that could put them in Victory Lane.

A quick glance at the way the practices and qualifying turned out tells us that there are others we should keep an eye on also. A few names that come to mind very quickly are, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart. Although there are several others I could mention I don’t see any reason to go into that much more detail because there are more than a few that can win at the Brickyard today.

In listening to the drivers talk about the track and how the cars handle on it, some things will be very evident in the race. As usual, track position is going to be very important and the pit crews will have to perform flawlessly all day if for no other reason than how narrow pit road is. Being out front in clean air is going to be very important (as it is almost every week) and the drivers are going to have to set up for passing those that they need to pass. This will definitely be a thinking man’s race, of that, I have no doubt. And while we’re talking about important things that could affect the outcome of the race today, let’s just hope that there are no tire issues…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 27, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Calm Before the Storm (A Rare Weekend Off for the Cup Teams)

Published July 19, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Go ahead, take that deep breath… A weekend off… Well, at least for the NASCAR Cup Teams. Even though they aren’t running this weekend, this fan is sure they are working feverishly preparing for next weekend when they’ll take on the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It could be, with only seven races to go before the Chase begins in its latest format, this could be the, “calm before the storm…”

In usual NASCAR fashion, a lot can change over the next several weeks of competition and probably will. That’s why I wanted to give my assessment of the 2014 season so far and what could prove to be a very interesting time ahead.

Looking back to the beginning of the 2014 season, probably the thing that stands out in my mind the most is the way that Hendrick horsepower seem to be “out powering” the rest of the teams. It was pretty obvious to begin with that the Hendrick teams and Hendrick associated teams were performing a bit better than the other teams whether or not they were actually winning. Now, in some cases they not only dominated but were winning but other teams were winning at that time as well, depending on how the cards fell at the end of the races.

Another interesting thing about the first part of the 2014 season was the number of winners that we had in the first 20 races. We saw it all – multiple winners along with single winners and those ranking higher in the points yet with no wins. With the emphasis NASCAR has put on winning this year points are important but winning seems to be more important. As far as that goes, winning should have always been important even though in many of the past years, consistency was what everyone seemed to look at as far as championships. This year, that may change completely.

Some surprises, at least to this fan this year, has been the performance of Dale Junior and his team and his completely different outlook. Now, it appears winning is once again important to him and poor performances matter and are at least somewhat completely unacceptable to him this year. In this fan’s opinion he’s come a long way this year compared to past years, at least in his time at Hendrick Motor Sports. It is also good to see Steve Letarte having a good year and departing the sport at the end of this year with what could be considered a satisfyingly strong year.

Jeff Gordon has been leading the points for many weeks even though he only has one win so far this year. However, this fan counts him as being a contender for the championship. It’s true that he hasn’t been exhibiting dominating performances even though many weeks he has shown up with one of the cars to beat, (Well, that is along with Kevin Harvick of Stewart/Hass Racing.) Overall, Jeff’s been very consistent throughout the 2014 season so far.

For many weeks, Jimmie Johnson was the focus of attention because he hadn’t won any races and people were wondering if he was going to make it into The Chase. He was scoring points but there was “major concern” about his inability to have any wins. Then, he knocked off three and that conversation ended. Now the talk around the garage and elsewhere is, “why is the number 48 having tire problems so often?” My opinion, is that they are just going through a time where not everything goes well whether or not they’re doing everything right but, it’s not Chase time yet.

Although it is hard to consider them underperformers, the JGR teams haven’t looked nearly as strong as they did last year, in particular, Matt Kenseth’s team. In fact, he’s the only one that JGR that hasn’t won so far this year even though last year he had seven wins. Kyle Busch has won, Denny Hamlin has one but so far victory has evaded Matt Kenseth’s team.

One of the biggest surprises to this fan has been the way NASCAR changed the qualifying sessions. The first few weeks of the new way of qualifying, this fan was not at all impressed. Now, I have to admit (at least for the present) that it appears to be a change for the better. It has added a new dimension to the qualifying sessions although I’m not so sure that it’s added that much more interest to them. One thing does stand out about qualifying and that would be how the Penske teams have pretty much dominated the new format. As for me, well, I reckon that qualifying in its present form is just one of those things I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude towards… but so far, so good.

The reason I started off with saying that this could be the “calm before the storm,” (meaning having this weekend off), is that The Chase is only seven races away. Even though The Chase will still be The Chase, it will be different this year. This year there will be an elimination format and that can totally change the outcome, at least compared to other years. Will it add more drama and interest? That’s a good question and not one this fan is ready to answer but it should prove to be an interesting time even though I think we all will have to take a wait-and-see attitude. The next seven races could tell us a lot, or absolutely nothing, about who will be in The Chase and how The Chase will end up…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 19, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Cup Teams Looking for Magic at the Magic Mile

Published July 12, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments

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Considering where we are in the season and the race for the Chase, several cup teams are looking for Magic at the Magic mile this weekend. I think it goes without saying, the ones really looking for Magic are the ones that are in the top 16 in points and they don’t have a victory yet. In fact, there are some that have one victory and they’re looking for more but the ones without a victory are looking for one and they need it to be soon.

Matt Kenseth is the first one that comes to the mind of this fan when it comes to needing a victory. He may be fifth in points but he would like to solidify a position in the Chase by getting his first victory on the year the Magic mile. Compared to last year, he and his team have struggled a bit more than they did and it appears this year, he’s not qualifying like he did last year and just not as visible as he was last year.

Ryan Newman sits eight in the points standings right now but he really needs a victory to solidify a spot in the 16 available spots for the Chase. Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer are in similar situations and they sit 10th and 12th respectively. Without a win their points position is at least somewhat precarious for making the Chase.

Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers would like nothing better than to make a trip to Victory Lane this weekend and the three of them sit 13th, 15th and 16th in the points. Without wins, their situation for the Chase depends on what others do. Well, I guess that goes for anyone in the top 20 but it is definite, at least for this year, NASCAR’s focus is on winning and that’s exactly what anyone that wants to make it into the Chase needs to do. Those outside of the top 16 and yet in the top 20 needing a win are, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kane, Marcus Ambrose and Tony Stewart. After that it just depends on what happens as far as wins and points for all concerned.

Once again this weekend, Brad Keselowski looks to be very strong but it is questionable whether or not his speeds will hold up in long green flag runs. Of course we all know that he is quite capable of winning no matter what but should there be those long green flag runs, especially in the closing laps of the race, it’s possible he could be very beatable by many others.

At least from this fan’s view, it did appear there were those that made a lot of longer green flag runs in the practice sessions and any one of them might end up taking the checkered flag. I won’t go into a long list of names at this point but there are several that looked good when taking longer runs as far as their lap times were concerned.

Unfortunately, it does appear that there might be tire problems again this weekend although this fan doesn’t think that it’s really a Goodyear problem. Just from listening to some of the conversations about the few tire problems we saw during practice it’s this fan’s opinion, along with several others, that the failures had more to do with tire pressure than tire failure causing the tire problems. That’s something to keep in mind as the race progresses Sunday afternoon. It appears (at least to this old racer) that of the four tires that make contact with the track, the left rear could be the one that causes the most problems on this race day if that situation does rear its ugly head.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned polesitter, Kyle Busch much. That’s not because I’m counting him out as far as being able to win Sunday afternoon at the Magic mile but simply more because of his performance lately. Every team seems to go through times when they may be fast but anything and everything that can go wrong does go wrong for them. I’m not so sure that’s not where Kyle Busch and his team are right at the moment. He is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with at Chase time even though his performance in the Chase in past years has not been that good. That being said, this may be his year (and I do emphasize the “may” in that statement.)

When it comes to the race Sunday afternoon, there are a number of drivers that could end up in Victory Lane. Of the many that I’m thinking of, there are a few that stand out in my mind. Those would be Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon. Anyone, or none, of those could be the ones pulling into victory Lane when all is said and done Sunday afternoon at the Magic mile. It is also possible that this fan’s opinion in the ones he thinks might win could be absolutely the wrong choices. Fortunately for this fan (and this fan’s view) he never claimed to be able to tell the future…

This race is a short race and barring the unforeseen, there could be some relatively long green flag runs and the race could be over very quickly. It is also possible there could be a number of cautions and, should there be tire failures, some of those that are looking very good as winners at the moment could be taken out because of those tire failures. The most important aspects to keep in mind for the race this weekend is strategy, fuel mileage and tire problems. This fan really hopes that it doesn’t come down to fuel mileage even though when it does come down to that the end of the race, it usually is very interesting…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 12, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Daytona, Restrictor Plates and Pack Racing

Published July 5, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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IMG_0131It’s different in Daytona during the summer… It’s hot and humid and, when the NASCAR teams show up, it’s loud and noisy. Fortunately, for the Coke Zero 400, they race at night so that minimizes the effect of the hot summer sun but the track is much different than it is in February. In February it is cooler and much less humid and the track has much more grip. When it comes to July, all of the things about summer in Florida come into play. We’ve already mentioned the humidity and of course that summer is much warmer than February (generally speaking) and the effect the sun, heat and humidity has on the track means it’s much more slick so the grip is down.

As has been the case all year long, with the new rules package that NASCAR introduced with more down-force and other changes, the teams are making the most of that added grip level and overall, the speeds are even faster than they’ve been in the past. One has to wonder if it weren’t for those restrictor plates just how fast a 3400 pound stock cars could go on the super speedway at Daytona.

Even though they only completed the first of the three planned qualifying sessions before the rains came Friday afternoon, because of the new qualifying procedure, the one completed session became the official qualifying lineup for the start of Saturday night’s race. From this fan’s view, that is one of the better advantages of the new qualifying procedure and I’m not the only one that feels that way. It was also very interesting to see some of the strategies playing out as they went through the qualifying session and even observing the strategies being developed during the practice sessions. When all was said and done it was evident that the plans and strategies the teams had come up with for qualifying, for some it worked and for others it didn’t.

I know I’ve said this before but I really like restrictor plate racing on the super speedways if for no other reason than the pack racing. Not that long ago the two-car tandem (or the two-car draft) was popular because it was the fastest way around the track. NASCAR, in its infinite wisdom (and its concern for the fans) made changes to the opening to the radiators so that time spent drafting like that would be limited. In all honesty, I have to say this fan was never a fan of the two-car tandem although it did make for some interesting races.

Before we had the new car and before we had the two-car draft I liked the fact that we would see two and three wide racing in a very large pack, lap after lap, and never knowing when the “big one” might happen. Although I know we can’t go back to those days, I do know that the racing these days (and the racing that will take place tonight at Daytona) will be similar to that and yet different at the same time. Tonight might be where teams (I mean full teams like Hendrick, Stewart-Haas, Roush, Childers and the rest) may decide to stick together so they can make more speed. It should prove to be interesting, whatever the case.

It is my opinion that short track racing is so popular because of the closeness of the racing. That also applies, at least somewhat, to the super speedways – close racing draws attention to itself. Although it is obvious that the drivers do fall into line just to kill off some laps these days, they do “get after it” on a regular basis during the super speedway races and make it more interesting than it used to be when they would just drive lap after lap in single file until the last 25 laps or so.

I know I speak for myself, but I also know I speak for others that have driven their local short tracks on Saturday nights, that some of the most interesting races I’ve ever been in were those that the race lineups turned out in such a way and we could run many laps bumper-to-bumper and door handle to door handle in a very tight pack. I know from inside the car that tight pack racing is intense but also very enjoyable for the drivers. Now that may only hold true on short tracks and I’m sure that the NASCAR Sprint cup drivers will tell you that it’s more stressful than it is anything else. I do know that when we had those type packs on the short tracks on Saturday night, the fans really got into it and the roar of the crowd at the end of the race was something that could be heard above the roar of the engines very easily.

The thing about restrictor plate racing at Daytona (and Talladega for that matter) is that if you start the race you have as good a chance as anyone to end up in Victory Lane. Some even call the restrictor plate tracks the great equalizers because no one knows who is going to make the right move to end up out front at the right time for the checkered flag to drop. I know in tonight’s race there are many that would like nothing better than to see Dale Jr., come home the winner. Even though his chances are as good as anyone’s, in particular because he’s running Hendrick horsepower and equipment, there’s no guarantee he will even finish the race and that goes for just about anyone that starts the race.

Several things are obvious for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona tonight and week to week in NASCAR these things hardly ever change. It is important that the pit crews make no mistakes during the pit stops, the drivers make no mistakes when entering or exiting pit road and that the crew Chiefs have a strategy that can put their driver in Victory Lane.

There is no doubt that strategy will play the biggest role in tonight’s race but patience on the drivers part will also play a big role. It is this fan’s hope that there won’t be “the big one” and that the field runs most of the night in a tight pack, two and three wide for most of the race. Of course, this fan also realizes that the likelihood of running 160 laps at Daytona in a restrictor plate race and full of door handle to door handle and bumper-to-bumper racing going off without “the big one” is small…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 5, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Another Saturday Night Under the Lights At Kentucky

Published June 28, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Well, it’s another Saturday night under the lights and this time it’s at Kentucky Speedway. What better way to follow up the road race at Sonoma than with a Saturday night under the lights which is more what stock car racing has always been. I don’t know about you but this fan grew up going to Saturday night stock car racing on a regular basis. It still holds a special place in my heart and mind and Saturday night is the night that we did most of our racing at our local tracks, too.

I have to admit when NASCAR started doing qualifying the way they do now, I was not a real fan of it. After they made some changes to the way it’s done, it’s become quite interesting. From this fan’s view it’s probably one of the best innovations they’ve had in a while, but then again, that’s just my opinion. It’s pretty obvious not everyone has it figured out yet but it still allows the ones that have the best laps to own the best starting positions. I’m sure some will disagree with that but it’s not that much different than when they were running one or two individual laps – and blew it – and they’re starting positions reflected the same. Now, if they’ve properly prepared their cars in the drivers are “on it,” they at least have a chance of improving a blown lap.

It appears the Penske teams of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano do have the qualifying figured out as they have started in the top five quite often this year. Once again this week they’re both starting on the front row with Keselowski taking the pole. It is interesting, at least to this fan, that week in and week out they do perform quite well in qualifying but they don’t always start the race so well. It could be different this week because both of them looked very good in the practice sessions and qualifying. When it comes to the way things go for them tonight I guess we’ll just have to take a wait-and-see attitude.

One of the keywords heard most often this weekend has been the word “bumpy.” One thing is pretty obvious even to the casual observer, and that’s how the cars bounce around as they travel around the track. It’s easy to see why they would often mention that word. Some say that’s just the character of the track and that’s what makes it somewhat challenging. Others, well… they just can’t get it figured out and they don’t really complain that much but they don’t really run that well either.

For once, at least lately, Kevin Harvick didn’t appear he had the car to beat this weekend, (at least not in the practice sessions and qualifying.) I’m not sure how he will perform tonight but I’m sure he will be in the mix when it comes down to crunch time.

Another surprise, at least to this fan, was Jimmie Johnson. Yeah, I know he has three wins and if the Chase started tonight he would be in the number one position even though he’s not a points leader presently. It just makes me wonder if he and Chad are working on some setups for the future that they may not get, or have, information for when it comes to the Chase. I suppose it is possible that they just missed figuring out the Kentucky track so far but it is hard for this fan to believe that Jimmie won’t be one of the ones running at or near the front by the end of tonight’s race. From my view that’s another one of those, wait-and-see things for tonight.

It is no surprise – well, at least to this fan – that the Roush cars didn’t look that good even though Carl Edwards won at Sonoma last weekend. I was kind of surprised to see Carl take the checkered flag at Sonoma but he does usually run well at places he likes to run at. It is definite that he likes road racing and it shows in the way he performs. It will be interesting to see how he does at Watkins Glen. As to how the Roush Fords will do tonight, well… How do I put this nicely? This fan just doesn’t think they are going to do that well.

One of the surprises this weekend, at least to this fan, was some speed from the Joe Gibbs teams that’s been missing lately. Of course Kyle Busch did show speed and usually does in the other classes but when it comes to Cup, Kyle Busch and generally all of the Joe Gibbs teams have been lacking in performance. Yes, I remember that both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have wins but Matt Kenseth hasn’t had one yet and the consistency just hasn’t been there. Whether or not that will change tonight at Kentucky Speedway remains to be seen and is a definite unknown to this fan for sure.

Since I’ve already mentioned the Penske Ford teams and their confidence level for tonight, now would probably be a good time to bring up Jeff Gordon. Jeff has been enjoying a reasonably good year even though he hasn’t had a lot of wins. The consistency has been there though and when it comes to confidence, well let’s just say it’s been a while since this fan has seen Jeff Gordon as confident as he is week to week. Honestly, it’s good to see and he could be making a trip to Victory Lane tonight. He, like many of the others, will have to travel a long and bumpy road to get there but this fan thinks that he has a very good chance of doing that tonight.

As I said earlier, it’s good to get back to Saturday night racing for a while and for the next two weekends between Kentucky and Daytona that’s where we’ll be. As long as weather holds in both places, and the emotions are kept in check, it should prove to be two very interesting weekends. Of the two, Kentucky just might prove to be the more – how do I say this tactfully – interesting emotionally?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 28 , 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

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