It’s Elimination Time at Dover from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Published October 3, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments

Rusty Norman

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Eliminations begin this weekend at Dover Delaware and with the rain out of a practice and qualifying, things could be very interesting, especially for the Challengers in the Chase. The only ones that don’t have to be concerned with where they finish would be Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. Because of qualifying being rained out the field was set by the standings according to the rules and that could make it even more of a challenge for the Chase drivers needing good finishes or a win and having to start further back in the field.

Chase race three is a turning point for the Chasers and this fan thinks the intensity for the race this weekend is going to be beyond belief, especially for the ones that are in a situation of possibly not qualifying to move on to the next segment. That means more of the Chase contenders than just Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Other than those two, Kyle Bush and Paul Menard are first on the list of having to finish at or near the front. They sit in thirteenth and fourteenth place in the standings at the moment but only one point separates them from twelfth.

Dale Jr. is in twelfth place and Junior Nation is more than a little hopeful he can at least stay there. With the way he has performed this season, for him not to advance to the next round of the Chase would be more than a disappointment to both him and his fans. With the lack of practice and qualifying, it is difficult to say how well he will perform when they actually get to race. Dover isn’t an easy track to set up for and, from this fan’s view, more drivers and teams than Dale Jr’s will be affected. Oh I know they’ve all been here earlier this year but that doesn’t change the facts that Dover is a track that changes all the time. Whether it is from all the rain and the “green” track or how it changes when it begins to rubber up, all of the teams will face challenges all through this one.

I don’t want to go through all of the individual drivers in the Chase and whether or not they will qualify to move on to the next round. Up to this time the sixteen drivers have been considered Challengers but for the next three races after Dover they become Contenders. Only twelve of them have a chance to move on after this one. Which ones those twelve will be depends on how they finish the race at Dover.

We already know Kenseth and Hamlin will move on. Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson appear to be fairly safe bets to make it to the Contender round but an unexpected bad day for any of these three, however remote it may seem, could spell disaster for them. In reality, they should make it but some very bizarre things have happened so far in the last two races. All it takes is finishing in the rear and they’re done.

It really begins to get interesting when considering the grid from Ryan Newman on back to Jamie McMurray in eleventh (since I’ve already mentioned Dale Jr’s situation.) From Newman to Harvick, anything can happen to jumble up the grid. Although it is much more likely to see something happen between those from McMurray to Menard, from this fan’s view, nothing can be ruled out until things actually get rolling.

When it comes down to it, Kevin Harvick can get in to the next round by winning or finishing near the front and others ahead of him struggling and finishing badly. Clint Bowyer has to win to make it in. That’s the only chance he has and that could prove to make it interesting if he is running with someone for the win at the end.

That’s probably what will make this race so dramatic and why there will be quite a difference in the intensity throughout. Those that need to move up into the top twelve to make it into the Contender round will have a different mentality when it comes to moving someone out of their way that might be keeping them from that spot that would put them in the top twelve. We’ve seen it happen in the past and I expect it will happen in this race and in the future.

This could also mean there might be some really intense emotions displayed during and after this one is over. When you mix the competitiveness and adrenaline along with the intensity and the need to move on to the next round, some things just can’t be predicted. If anyone thought that the “discussion” between Harvick and Johnson a couple of weeks ago was something, look out for what happens during this one that might help any of the drivers get eliminated…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 3, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

After New Hampshire Damage Assessment from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Published September 30, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 1 Comments

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The end of the Sylvania 300 had a lot of “what ifs” in it and, from this fan’s view, those “what ifs” make a world of difference as we leave Chase race two in the rear view and look forward to the week ahead. As expected, Chase race two at New Hampshire was an exciting short track race with a lot of drama to spare right down to the final laps. Some of the Chasers faired well and some… well, let’s just say they’d really like to take a Mulligan.

Of course, we all know they can’t and they’re going to have to hustle in the last of the first three races in the Chase if they want to move on to the next round. The problem with New Hampshire for some is that the only way to correct the damage is to win this coming weekend and the intensity will be doubled or tripled for them. No matter how hard they try, only one person can win and perhaps change their 2015 Chase destiny and the others will fall by the wayside because four drivers will be eliminated when this coming weekend is done.

Getting back to the “what ifs” for a few moments; what if Kevin Harvick’s crew chief had made a different decision about his fuel situation? It is hard to say where he might have finished had they gone ahead and bit the bullet and stopped for fuel. It is true they made it to within three laps of the finish but, because they ran out of fuel, it took them much longer to get to the pits, refuel and get back on the track than it would have if they had made it a planned stop a few laps earlier. I realize it is the Chase and you have to take chances but they were already in the situation of needing a win or at least a very good finish.

Now I know there are those of you listening or reading this that say the #4 team wouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for Jimmie Johnson getting into him last weekend which resulted in another poor finish. That’s just another of those things I call “what ifs” and deals with a thing called racing luck. As I stated in last week’s Damage Assessment, it is my opinion (and I know I’m not alone in this) that they made a very bad decision last weekend also.

Just to refresh the scene a little from last week at Chicagoland, they ran four laps after the contact with Jimmie Johnson resulted in a tire rub with an extreme amount of smoke pouring from the car. It was my stated opinion they should have gone ahead and come into the pits, inspected the damage and repaired what they could and left with new tires and a full tank of fuel. By doing that they may have been a couple of laps down (which they could have possibly made up) and not have been in such a desperate situation coming into New Hampshire. Because of the decision they made at Chicagoland they ended up over fifty-five laps down and it moved them way down in the Chase grid standings. They blamed Jimmie Johnson for their problems and I still see it as a “what if” they had done it differently and finished better. (Of course I have to admit, I do love my job as a Monday morning crew chief. It is much less stressful.)

Every NASCAR and Kevin Harvick fan knows that he won’t throw in the towel and that the he and his #4 team will do everything they can to win this coming weekend but all of us also know it is do or die if they want to stay in contention and move on to the next round of the Chase.

The problem is that he isn’t the only one that needs to stay in contention and there is no guarantee he will. I’m sure Clint Bowyer will show up with the same intentions as Harvick. It is my opinion his chances are quite a bit slimmer than Harvick’s but that won’t change the intensity of how they approach the upcoming race. They both need a win to get in although Harvick could slip in IF there is a major shakeup in the standings above him.

Kyle Bush seems to be “enjoying” his usual Chase racing luck (and I stress that I am saying that with sarcasm) and he sits in thirteenth place after New Hampshire. He doesn’t have to win but he does need a good finish in the race ahead. The same goes for Paul Menard. Both of them are only a point out of the top twelve but neither of them can afford to have a bad race. At the very least, they both need to finish a couple of spots or so ahead of Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention Dale Jr. is in twelfth spot in the Grid standings because he ran out of fuel at New Hampshire? “What if” they would have made a quick stop for a splash of gas instead? Hm-m-m-m… “What if” he has a bad day in Dover…?

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 30, 2015 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, and

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

Chasers Taking On New Hampshire For Chase Race Two from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Published September 26, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 1 Comments

Rusty Norman

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It’s already quite evident that the newest Chase format is doing what it was supposed to do since it was instituted last season and continues on through this one. Tensions and emotions are running very high and we’ve only had one race. This second race in the Chase at New Hampshire takes on its own significance and the only one that doesn’t appear to be very stressed this weekend is Denny Hamlin.

One other driver in the JGR camp that seems to have a lot of confidence going into this weekend is Carl Edwards. He took the pole position which was a repeat of what he did at the earlier race in July. Apparently the Gibbs teams are still thriving on the momentum of their performance over the last few months or so. At this track in July they made a very good showing with Kyle Bush taking the win and Kenseth and Edwards finishing in the top ten. (I guess it’s a good thing Denny won last weekend since he was the worst finisher for JGR in July at fourteenth.) Even though all of JGR didn’t make a good showing in qualifying, they still seem pretty confident with their race setups and possibilities.

Kevin Harvick has come to New Hampshire to make up for his bad finish last weekend at Chicagoland. Judging from his performance so far this weekend, I’d say he’s shown up ready to make his presence known. We all know how disappointed he was and that he thought he was wronged by Jimmie Johnson (though some of the blame should probably go to Jimmie, from this fan’s view there is plenty of blame to go around for both of them.) Even though last week’s incident is water over the dam, this fan thinks some thoughts of payback might resurface during the race if the opportunity presents itself. Of course, Kevin knows he can’t let that keep him from his main goal of qualifying for the next round in the Chase so I do think that main goal will override those thoughts. At any rate, he did qualify on the front row for the start of the Sunday’s race. That in itself could give a glimpse of how things might go by the time the checkered flag drops.

Kurt Bush has been quietly flying below the radar and qualified third for the start of the Sunday’s Sylvania 300. After finishing third in last week’s race, at least according to points, he looks pretty solid to move on to the next round in the Chase. Well, that is depending on how he does on Sunday. The thing about this format for the Chase is it doesn’t leave much room for bad finishes. All it takes is a finish like Harvick had last week and Kurt could be in the same boat. With the consistency he’s shown recently, I really don’t expect that to happen.

I think one of the things that puzzles me most so far is the performance of the Hendrick teams. They just haven’t shown the usual strength that always seems to surface around Chase time. It might be a little bit early to start counting them out but after this weekend one or more of them might be in a position of having to win to make it in to the next round.

That can’t be a pleasant thought for them considering they appear to this fan to have been struggling over the last ten races or so. It is unusual, although not unheard of, for them to struggle a bit at times but for none of them to be showing up as contenders at this point has to be cause for concern. I keep hearing the rumblings that Dale Jr has a good chance to win the Championship this year but without them improving their performance and finishes, I just don’t see it happening. Yeah, I do realize we’ve only had one Chase race so far but time is definitely running out for all three of them.

I think it has to be particularly disappointing for Jeff Gordon to run good in a race and finish poorly at the end. Last week he went from the front all the way back to fourteenth in just a couple of laps. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) he did manage to stay in the top twelve in points but I don’t think he wants to go out of this year as an also ran. He and his fans, for that matter, would much rather see him go out on top.

At this point he isn’t even really contending, he’s just scraping by and for a four time cup champ with a bunch of wins I’m sure he would like much more. For Jeff Gordon, it is about winning, something he hasn’t been able to do this season even though he has been close. Although he will prove himself to be an iron man of sorts when he starts this race and becomes the driver with the most consecutive starts without missing one, he wants more. He has accomplished a lot as a premier driver in this sport and I’m sure this is one title he can appreciate but still, he wants more. He won’t want to be remembered as driving in his last Chase for a Cup championship as one that just showed up and quietly rode off into the sunset and faded away. It is this fan’s opinion he would not only like to win this weekend but would also like to be contending for the Sprint Cup Championship as a part of the final four at Homestead in November. Anything less just doesn’t sound like Jeff Gordon. Will he make it? Well, that remains to be seen.

Earlier in the season he was asked if he “had to win” and he answered with an answer from the heart of a true champion. He said, “I don’t have to win… I want to win!” At New Hampshire this weekend he doesn’t have to win… he wants to win and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 26, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

Assessing the Damage After Chicagoland from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Published September 23, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 1 Comments

Rusty Norman

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All things considered after the first race in the Chase was completed at Chicagoland last weekend, things pretty much stayed the same except for a few changes in the grid standings. Of course I know there are more than a few that might disagree with me on that but seriously, not all that much changed.

A quick look at the way things shape up since Sunday shows the JGR teams still on everyone’s list to advance to the next round by either winning or staying in the top twelve in points. Denny Hamlin surprised everybody by taking the win considering how his day started and progressed until the final laps. Carl Edwards finished second behind his teammate Hamlin and Matt Kenseth admitted he wasn’t having a stellar day but ended up with a good finish by taking fifth. The surprising thing about the JGR teams was they didn’t even look like they were going to figure into the final results until very near the end of the race. Kyle Bush finished the worst of the four JGR teams with a ninth place.

Ryan Newman had a very solid day and moved into eighth place in the standings with his fourth place finish. It remains to be seen if he stays as solid as he did last year without winning a race but always moving on to the next rounds by having the points. For him, this fan thinks Chicagoland was good to him (which has very little to do with moving on to the next round but does keep him in the running for the Championship at this point.)

Kurt Bush had a very good day and moved up to fifth in the standings with his third place finish. I expected both of the Stewart-Haas teams to do well and both probably would have except for Kevin Harvick having a problem on one of the restarts early on.

There has been a lot of talk since the end of the race on Sunday and much of it has centered around the dust-up between Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Harvick seemed to think that Johnson just wanted to move him out of the way and did so. I don’t know what he thought after he saw the replays of the restart but it was very obvious he was quite upset about it. It was even more obvious when he and Jimmie Johnson had their “discussion” about it away from the crowds.

As a fan, I have no idea what their conversation was or which one of them was in the wrong but one thing I do know for sure… it definitely showed just how much pressure there is on each of them to perform and make it to the next round in the Chase and they only have two more races to do so.

Admittedly, Harvick did have a car that was likely going to be a contender in the closing laps and he could have won. He was also the biggest loser in the situation with Jimmie. I’m just a NASCAR fan and I’m not trying to take up for Jimmie but, I didn’t see it the same way that Harvick did. I did see Joey Logano giving a strong push to Johnson and I saw Harvick move down to block. As others have stated, if Johnson hadn’t pulled down inside of Harvick, he would have likely run into Harvick and who knows what the outcome would have been if it would have happened that way. I also don’t understand why his crew didn’t call him in after the contact considering the amount of smoke being generated from the tire rub.

From my view, had they called him in, at least he would have only been a lap or two down. Instead, they left him out, he blew the tire that was rubbing because of the damage and that put him down 55 plus laps. From the point of the contact with Johnson, his team made a really bad decision and it compounded the problems they already had. In this fan’s opinion, that’s what caused him to finish last and moved him all the way back to sixteenth in points and adds extra pressure on him and his team for the race coming up this weekend in New Hampshire.

At one point in the racing, it looked as though the Hendrick teams were all going to finish in the top ten and that Jeff Gordon might walk away with his first win of the season. As it was, he went from the front row on the last restart all the way back to fourteenth. Of the three Hendrick cars in the Chase, he was last with Johnson eleventh and Dale Jr. twelfth. No matter how you look at it, for them that had to hurt.

One thing that can be said about the racing from Chicagoland is the racing was intense and the Chaser’s were definitely aggressive from the drop of the green flag. If that gives any insight into the coming races, this is going to be a very intense nine weeks coming up and to tell the truth, I can’t wait…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 23, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

The 2015 Chase Begins at Chicagoland from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Published September 19, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 1 Comments

Rusty Norman

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It’s been a long hot summer and the waiting is finally over for the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Some got their wins early and have been waiting most of the year for this weekend to arrive. While some had to sweat it out to the very last race to qualify for the Chase others have just been waiting patiently, working and probably experimenting with different possibilities to improve their performance for the 10 race Chase starting Sunday afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway.

The rainout of qualifying Friday afternoon left many questions open and the field will line up according to their best times in the first practice. Several teams missed their starting setups and were totally surprised at how rough certain areas of the track were and had to try and quickly rethink their setups to get up to speed since they knew the rain was coming. For some it worked and for others, well, let’s just say the jury is still out.

I can’t remember in recent times seeing such a strong field qualified for the Chase and competing for the Sprint Cup Championship. I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if only these sixteen would be competing on the track for the Championship like some have suggested in the past but I know that isn’t the way things work. You and I both know that forty-three cars will start every one of the next ten races and all sixteen of the contenders for the Championship will have to contend equally for position with those other twenty-seven over the next three. After that, the field contending for the Championship will be down to twelve for three races and then… well… you know how the Chase format works.

At first, I didn’t think I would much care for the Chase format and the way they had it structured. Even though the way it was at first was okay, the newest format with sixteen contenders is by far better and more interesting than the original way. Maybe it’s because more drivers and teams are involved or maybe it’s just because the teams have learned how to better deal with the Chase format, but whatever the case, it is better now than ever. Well, at least it has been. We’ll find out more as this one progresses.

So what is it about the Chicagoland Speedway that so many drivers are looking forward to the race there this Sunday afternoon? Is it because they like the track so much or is it because they just want to get this thing started so they can see how they will measure up to the competition? Is it because they know many of the contenders they face in the Chase haven’t had to show everything they have over the last month or so because they have one or more wins this season or is it perhaps because the mind games are just beginning?

Whatever the reason, this first race in the Chase will show how many of the contenders are really ready for it to begin and those that may wish they had a few more weeks to work on getting more speed out of their cars.

Coming into this weekend many have already declared the Joe Gibbs teams as the ones to beat. Some have even declared all four teams will be the ones battling amongst themselves for the Championship in the race at Homestead in November leaving the other teams wondering what hit them. I suppose that is a possibility but this fan isn’t ready to draw that conclusion just yet. In fact, I expect other teams to show a little more speed and overall strength than they may have shown in recent weeks.

I’m not saying the Gibbs teams don’t have it all locked up and I’m not saying others have been sandbagging up to this point. What I am saying is, sometimes in past years, the ones that looked the strongest in the last part of the races leading up to the Chase weren’t at all as strong as it appeared they were. Just because JGR teams have won eight of the last eleven races doesn’t mean they will continue with their streak throughout the Chase. Of course I do have to admit, it doesn’t mean they won’t either.

There have been times when some teams have stepped up to the plate when it looked like they were the ones least likely to make it past the first round. In a different format of the Chase, Tony Stewart comes to the mind of this NASCAR fan when he won five of the ten Chase races to take the Championship over Carl Edwards a few years back. Up to actually making it in, it didn’t even look as though he was going to make it into the Chase that year. Last year, the Hendrick teams looked like they would be the rightful heirs to the Sprint Cup but they fell far short of those expectations.

The Stewart-Haas teams of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Bush intend to take it to the JGR teams and Kevin Harvick has already stated he intends to put a pounding on them during the Chase. If anyone can do that, Harvick can and he has been strong most, if not all season.

You see, it doesn’t always matter how well a team or teams performed getting to the Chase and the way the Chase format is laid out really doesn’t allow much room for bad performances once it starts. From this fan’s view, what really matters is who shows up with their game face on and takes it to the competition each and every lap of every race and makes things happen with every pit strategy and performance on the track. In the end, that’s where the real champions show up. That’s what makes it interesting and I don’t know how you feel about it but, I like it this way…

And then there are those other twenty seven teams that have every intention of using every bit as much of their available resources during the Chase to win as many races as they can even if they aren’t in the Chase and running to win the Sprint Cup Championship…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 18, 2015 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, and

All audio productions by

Who Will Be In When Richmond Ends? from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Published September 11, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 1 Comments

Rusty Norman

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Well, there is only one thing that will actually matter when the race is done at Richmond International Raceway and that’s who’s in and who’s outside looking in when the checkered flag drops. When this one is done, sixteen drivers will be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship and the rest, well, let’s just say they’ll be thinking about getting a win or two and working on better performance for next year.

This has been an interesting year so far and, as is often the case, those teams that start the year with dominating performances generally struggle a little before and during the Chase. If you don’t believe me, just look at the way the Hendrick and Hendrick associated teams started the year and where they are now.  It hasn’t been what could even be remotely considered as a stellar year for any or all of them. In fact, in the last ten weeks alone things have looked fairly bleak for them. They just haven’t been performing at all well and this fan knows they are feeling the heat and the pressure to step it up and the sooner the better for all of them. Knowing that Hendrick teams have often led the way over the last years, it has to be hard for them to accept so many marginal performances as they have in recent times.

The bright spot recently for Hendrick hasn’t even been in house but by Stewart-Haas Racing and the number four team of Kevin Harvick. They have led laps and shown strength over the last weeks but, even at that, they haven’t looked that good, comparatively speaking.

Just the opposite has been true for the Joe Gibbs Racing teams. Just a couple of months ago many were wondering if they were ever going to show up competitively this year. Looking at their performance and results over just the last eight weeks or so tells a whole different story. They are qualifying up front often and finishing either at or near the front and one can only think they will continue to do the same over the next few weeks at least.

Well, that is unless their performance takes a turn for the worse, (which is always a possibility in NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing, although this fan doesn’t expect it.)

From this fan’s view, The Penske teams have been running well but haven’t been stellar in their performance over the last couple of months of competition. Yes, I know they’ve won some races and made a strong showing over that time but they just haven’t looked all that overpowering or even as though they could be. I do admit that could be because they are doing all of their testing before the Chase begins so they won’t be surprised when it does but, I don’t think so. I think the rules changes have thrown them a few curve balls just like it has other teams.

When it comes down to the race at RIR Saturday night, there are a lot of question marks going in. Some of those will go away when the green flag drops but several of them will be around until the checkered flag drops. That’s because positions thirteen through sixteen in particular are still up in the air. Well, not thirteen so much because Ryan Newman only has to finish thirty-first or better. Unless a major disaster strikes them though, Ryan will once again be in the Chase on points.

The situation gets really interesting for positions fourteen through sixteen and I don’t know of anyone that hasn’t been thinking how precarious those positions are going into the night race at Richmond.

Clint Bowyer is probably the most at risk simply because he sits in sixteenth points-wise and his situation could go either way very quickly. If he runs into the problems he’s had over the last several weeks, he could drop right out of being in contention for being in the Chase at all. The only thing that really locks him in would be to win or for things to remain pretty much as they are when the night is done. If someone unexpected wins from seventeenth to thirtieth, he’s gone.

Paul Menard isn’t in a much better place since he has to finish ninth or better to lock himself in. Even if someone unexpected wins and he finishes ninth or better he should be in.

Once again, the biggest question mark in Saturday night’s race and making the Chase is Jeff Gordon. He has to finish seventeenth or better and he could squeak in and I use that term because he should have already locked himself in. As I stated last week, he basically had two race wins locked up earlier in the season and didn’t win and those slip ups put him in the position he’s in going into Saturday night’s race. From this fan’s view, this has been a year that, if it can go wrong, it has for the twenty-four team. I’m sure all Jeff Gordon fans will be paying very close attention to where he’s running until the checkered flag drops.

I find it extremely humorous how all of the “Black Helicopters” come out, in particular for this race at RIR leading into the Chase. I have been following a lot of the comments about how people think the race is going to go and it is almost unbelievable what some actually think. I’ve heard just about every possible scenario anyone can imagine and I have to say, I just don’t agree with any of them. Having been a racer and a NASCAR fan for around fifty years or so, I don’t understand why so many think the fixes are in and there will be team orders to let the ones that need to finish up front finish there even if it means sacrificing a better finish by some team members to do so.

I do admit that NASCAR does keep a tight rein on competition and I do think they make some rule decisions to tighten up the competition but, I do not think they choose winners and losers and I don’t think it would ever be in their best interest or the sport’s best interest to do so. What I do know of racing and racing luck and how everything seems to come together at times, it can look very strange and even suspicious at times. I also know from experience that things can happen at the strangest of times in racing and it can either improve a situation or have an absolute negative impact on it.

In this fan’s opinion, NASCAR is probably one of the most competitive sports around and there are a number of very smart people involved in it that range from floor sweepers looking to break into it to the owner’s that love to win and don’t mind if it turns out to be in dominating fashion. If I thought for one moment that NASCAR would try to alter the outcome of a race just so someone like a Jeff Gordon or anyone else could be in the Chase in his final year of competition, I can honestly say I would never watch another race. As it is, I look forward to this race and the drama that surrounds it and I can’t wait to hear all of the “Black Helicopter” stories and statements when it’s over. As for who will be in the Chase when the race at Richmond ends Saturday night, I’m just going to wait and see which ones step up and outperform the other forty-two…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 11, 2015 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, and

All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

Random Thoughts on Throwback Darlington and the 2015 Sprint Cup Season from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Published September 6, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 1 Comments

Rusty Norman

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Well, I’ve finally made it back to health and I’ve caught up enough on things I’ve had planned for a while to get back into the swing of talking about NASCAR from this fan’s view. I could have probably started back into this routine a little sooner but I just haven’t had that much to say one way or the other about the Sprint Cup season this year. With all of the rule changes and racing that has at times bordered on boring, this has probably been a year I could have missed (but would have probably never forgiven myself if I did.)

For some reason (and part of it could be due to my heart attack in February), it just hasn’t held the same interest for me as past years. I’m sure I’ll get over it and I do look forward to the Chase getting started but seriously, if it hadn’t been for some of those late race cautions, the outcomes to many races would have been completely predictable.

I know you’ve been paying attention to the Throwback theme for Darlington this weekend and it has been interesting to see how some of the teams have celebrated their sport and its heritage over the last sixty-five years. We’ve had a glimpse of cars looking like ones from years ago and some drivers having fun and celebrating by trying to look like the legends and heroes from days gone by.

Although I admire them for their success to reach this point in their careers, some of them are a long way from being anything like the legends they try to portray and many will never make the impact their successors made in the sport.

Admittedly there are those that I’ve made snap judgments on in the past and I have had to change my mind or at least my impression of them. For others, my first impression was absolutely correct and I may tolerate them and somewhat appreciate their talent but, will probably never be even close to what could be considered as a fan. Some of those I just mentioned have been around for several years and even though they are talented drivers, their actions on and off the track have failed to change my mind.

One thing I have noticed over the last several years; when I started writing regularly about the Cup series, my viewpoint changed in how I look at the drivers and their performance on and off the track. I’ve tried hard not to show favoritism toward any particular driver even though I do have several favorites (and one of them is retiring after this year.)

Some of them like to talk smack about their competition and blame everyone but themselves for their poor performance at times. Most of them do mature over time but some just never understand people’s impression of them is based not only on the talent they exhibit on the track but on how they handle adversities they face in the course of this, their chosen career.

Probably the one thing that disappoints me most in any driver is when they begin to whine about every little setback they have in the course of a season. They refuse to take any responsibility for their lack of progress or success and always have a tendency to blame other drivers, crew members or the owners. If they have a bad race it is because someone back at the shop didn’t do their job or the owner isn’t putting enough money into their part of the operation and several other reasons but it is never their fault.

I won’t mention any names here because I don’t want to start an unnecessary argument with anyone but most of us readily spot the whiners. Legitimate complaints I have no problem with and every team goes through growing pains even if they’ve been together for a while. Sometimes a driver has to make it known that he’s doing everything possible to work with what he has and improvement needs to happen but when the pre and post race interviews begin to sound like whining, well… that’s where I have to draw the line and I do.

There hasn’t been too much of that this season but there has been enough of it in the past from the drivers I’m thinking of to last me for a good long time. Believe me when I tell you, I am not impressed with anyone that refuses to take at least partial responsibility for the inability of a ‘team’ to perform (and I emphasize the word “team” because this is still a team sport and that includes the drivers and they are not only part of the success but the problems when they are encountered along the way, too.)

Oh well, enough of my ranting (even though it has been a long time coming.)

The race at Darlington tonight is one of two last chances for some to “win” their way into the Chase. Twelve are in according to wins and points and four are on the top side of the bubble. One of those is Jeff Gordon and he could win tonight and lock himself into the Chase but he wouldn’t even have to worry about winning tonight if he hadn’t twice beat himself when he had two races fairly well locked up this season. It’s unfortunate that his final season has almost come down to a have to win situation but in reality, he can only blame himself this year. Of course, in this fan’s opinion, his crew chief hasn’t been all that impressive this season either.

I really do believe tonight’s race will be an interesting one and, with the reduced down force in the cars, staying away from hard contact with the wall could make the difference in winning or losing and having a chance to be in the Chase. For at least eight drivers tonight it is all about winning and their chances to do so and make the Chase are down to the slimmest of margins. I’m expecting fireworks but not the kind that light up the night sky…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 6, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR Fans View update

Published February 25, 2015 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments

Dear NASCAR fans… The author of this website, Rusty Norman, had a heart attack on Thursday afternoon Feb 12, 2015 and won’t be able to continue with his NASCAR sites for a while. While he is assessing his situation there will probably be no new posts here for at least the next two weeks or so. (Of course, any and all of this is subject to change at any time and he is doing well.) Thanks for your understanding and he’ll see you next time, right here at NASCAR Fans View and Just A Fan’s View

Thanks Again!!

Rusty Norman

Kevin Harvick IS the Sprint Cup Champ for 2014

Published November 20, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

As I said it was going to turn out in last week’s article, Kevin Harvick IS the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ for 2014. It isn’t like I didn’t expect it and I did say so two weeks ago after the race at Phoenix on my twitter account ( @podcastnorm ) and I also said the same in last week’s article. Admittedly, I also picked Jeff Gordon to win at Homestead but that didn’t quite happen even though he did lead the most laps and could have possibly won if it weren’t for all of those caution flags at the end of the race. Of course I also have to admit, if it weren’t for at least one of those several cautions near the end, Kevin Harvick may not have had the opportunity to pass Denny Hamlin and take the win and the Championship.

First off, let me just say as a NASCAR fan and an avid follower of the sport and those involved in it, I do think the Chase format for this season was one of the greatest things NASCAR has ever come up with to add drama, intensity and interest to the run for the Cup Championship. In the past, we all kind of knew it was going to be down to basically one or two competitors by the middle to the last third of the actual Chase. With the new format, it is now hard to tell who the final four will be until the ninth race in the Chase and even harder to decide which one of the final four will end up as Champ. From this fan’s view, I think NASCAR knocked it out of the park with this format and I have never seen so much interest in the finale as I did this season. Shucks, I don’t even know how they could tweak it to make it better at this point. It was a great way to end the season.

I do have to say that I wasn’t sure how the new Chase format was going to work out but I was more than a little pleasantly surprised with the end results and the constantly increasing intensity we as fans witnessed from the first to the last race in the Chase. We saw a level of emotion almost every week of the last ten races that we haven’t seen in a while, and especially in the Chase itself. Hey, I even found myself getting bent out of shape at times with some of the goings on just as if I was being directly affected by one or more of the driver’s and teams actions. Honestly, that hasn’t really happened since I stopped racing at my local tracks.

Looking ahead to next season, I haven’t really figured out what effect the new rule changes are going have but I am sure it will be an interesting learning curve for all of us. This year saw many new track records and, it this fan’s opinion many of those won’t be broken for a while. I could be wrong about that but, from what we’ve heard and been told, most of the changes will slow the cars down, at least slightly, and hopefully make it a little easier on Goodyear for making tires that keep it interesting without some of the obvious failures we saw this year. Tires often played a big part in the stories just about every week this season but they might not be so noticed next season. I’m sure something else will show up to take the place of the tire problems although I’m not sure what that might be. So far, a least in this fan’s opinion, NASCAR has done a great job in keeping the racing very competitive while trying to reduce the costs for the owners and keep all concerned parties happy.

I look forward to next season but really look forward to a little break. This Chase took a toll on everyone whether directly or indirectly involved and even the fans felt the pressure week in and week out during this Chase, especially if their driver was on the verge of advancing or not advancing to the next round.

This season was one of the most interesting and exciting in recent memory as far as this fan is concerned and I expect next year will be similar especially since there are going to be some major rule changes and that means new information will have to be gathered and drivers may have to change (or adapt) their driving styles once again to the new setups and changes. These are the best drivers in the world and they will manage to make the necessary changes to perform at the top of their game. This fan still can’t wait to see which ones the new rules package may favor more than the others. This year showed that some liked the way these cars handled better than others and it took most of the season for some of them to adapt but, adapt they did.

As we leave this season behind, the Hendrick and Hendrick associated teams seemed to be performing a little better than the rest overall but next season could be another Toyota or Ford year when it comes down to performance.

Kevin Harvick is and will be a great Champion and will represent the sport well in the coming year. Is it possible he could repeat his performance in the year ahead and win another Championship or will it be someone else? Well, for now it’s not all that important and time will tell us all we need to know about that for sure.

Until next year, it is my hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and the Merriest Christmas and that the New Year is the happiest you’ve ever known… May God richly bless you all!

See ya next year…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 20, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

Crowning the 2014 Cup Champ at Homestead

Published November 15, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

And so the season comes down to this… four teams will contend for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in a heads up race at Homestead. One race, all four start with the same number of points and one of the four will be crowned the 2014 NASCAR Cup Champion. All any of the four needs to do is finish ahead of the other three and that one becomes the champ. None of the four has to win, none of the four has to run up front and none of the four gets any extra points for anything so, as long as one of them finishes ahead of the other three, that ONE will be the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ.

So… does that mean we’re in for an uneventful afternoon and evening at Homestead? Well… could be… but probably not. Considering the way the Chase has gone so far, this could be another one of those races that anything could happen (uh, and probably will.)

This will probably aggravate a few people, but it is this fan’s opinion that only one of the four “finalists’ deserves to be there. Well okay, I guess as much I hate to admit it, there are really two.

What I am about to say next “almost” explains what I mean when I say only one of the four “deserves” to be contending in the finale for the Sprint Cup Championship. Kevin Harvick has been the most consistent performer of the four “finalists” for the whole season and could probably have had six or seven wins himself except for some “challenges” he and his team faced throughout the 2014 season. Still he and the #4 team showed up almost every week with the fastest car and often was the car to beat until the “situations” or “challenges” turned their “luck” to the bad side of the equation. In my opinion (and at this point in the Chase) he is the only one of the final four that really deserves to be there.

So I guess you’re probably wondering what in the world I am talking about. Well, in actuality, the rest of the final four are there (at least in this fan’s opinion) because of good racing luck. That has more to do with where they are than any other words so many have liked throwing around, throughout this Chase in particular. Words like consistency, determination and even that ugly word hardly any racer likes to talk about – patience. They all had far less to do with their being where they are at Homestead rather than the ugly beast of “racing luck.” At this point I would also like to add the phrase, “overcoming adversity.” That seems to be another set of words many people have liked to attribute to these other three, also.

Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying because, having been a fan and a racer and understanding that “racing luck” is something that all racers contend with every time they get in race car, it can either can help you or go against you at any time. This is not something new but it is something that has been made very evident this season and, in particular, during this 2014 Chase.

Take for example Joey Logano. It’s true he has been one of the most consistent and a top performer during the first nine races of the Chase this season but it is also true, had certain circumstances turned out differently in a race or two during the Chase, he would not even be contending for the Cup Championship at this point. Denny Hamlin is another this fan thinks is in the finale because of good racing luck and both of them only have to look back as far as last weekend to see the benefit of it being in their favor and turning their bad day into a good one. Both of them were on the verge of being eliminated from advancing because of certain situations that arose during the race and, as “luck” would have it, the yellows came out at the right time and they were able to get back into contention and end up advancing.

Although slightly different, Ryan Newman is in pretty much the same place as the other two, at least in this fan’s view. He has had a very consistent year and Chase but has no wins this season and wasn’t in a place to advance to the finale with only several laps remaining last week. Once again, as “luck” would have it, a caution came out at just the right time for him and put him right back into contention. Even he admitted he “had to do something (he) wasn’t all that proud of but… you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” So he forced his way into the Chase by slamming into Kyle Larson, putting him into the wall and gaining the one spot he needed to make it into the Chase.

Although I know there won’t be many that agree with me on these points and there will be those that just might say I’m not happy with the final four racing for the Sprint Cup Championship at Homestead, I do think “racing luck” had a lot to do with at least three of the four finalists making it to this point.

After the race last weekend, I tweeted ( @podcastnorm ) that I thought Kevin Harvick was going to be the 2014 Sprint Cup Champion. Well… now I’ve had a week to think about that tweet and here is what I would like to add…

Jeff Gordon is going to win the race Sunday afternoon at Homestead and Kevin Harvick will be the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. (Hey, look at it this way… just like twelve of the sixteen Chasers for 2014, I’ve got nothing to lose but, if it happens the way I say, well… as “luck” would have it… I was right… )

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 15, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions

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