NASCAR Under The Lights At Bristol from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Well… it’s that time again. Yeah, it’s time for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams to take on the Bristol Motor Speedway and this trip it is under the lights. “Saturday Night Under The Lights – Saturday Night Under The Lights!!” Forgive me but, every time I think about NASCAR’s Saturday night races, those words seem to always ring out in my mind. Although it was quite a long time ago, that was from and old radio commercial for the races every Saturday night on the favorite station my friends and I listened to in our area down in Florida where I live. Admittedly it was from a track I never frequented while driving my own stock car. Mostly that was because it was a three hour pull each way to get there if we wanted to go there to race but it was on the same night as our local races at our local tracks. I do admit though, the ad really made me want to…

The track at Bristol goes, or at least has gone, by several names over the years. The most memorable have been Bristol International Speed way, Thunder Valley and the latest,
Bristol Motor Speedway. No matter what you like to call it, it’s probably always going to be referred to by most as “It’s Bristol Baby!” One thing about it that will probably never change is the statement that calls it what it is – The world’s fastest half mile track. From this fan’s view and the view of many others, it is definitely that.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing it but there are only three races left until the playoffs and that means extra tension and intensity will be added to an already intense and emotionally charged race. There are three that are already qualified by points and several more that would like to win and hopefully make it in to the playoffs. Nothing has changed from last week. Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and Matt Kenseth are still in on points if one of the drivers below them doesn’t win and knocks one of them out. In fact, if there are three new winners over the next three weeks and one of them is none of the three mentioned, all three of them wouldn’t make it into the playoffs.

One of the biggest problems facing any of those that want to win to get in or to just get into the playoffs by points is that it is likely someone is going to win the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. It just probably isn’t going to be someone that hasn’t won already this season. The two likeliest drivers from this fan’s view would be the two Kyles, Kyle Bush and Kyle Larson. Kyle Bush has already won twice at the track this week and both he and Larson like running the top of the track.

I guess right now your thinking, “Hey Rusty, did you forget that Erik Jones won the pole?” No, I didn’t forget and I am glad for Erik that he won his first Cup pole at the prestigious and historic Bristol track. You see, it’s just that I don’t put a whole lot of stock in pole positions meaning all that much during a race. Of course I know the pole winner gets great pit selection and I know sometimes the pole winner actually does win the race. My problem with it is that more often than not, the person that generally wins isn’t the one sitting on the pole. In fact, it can often be someone sitting in the middle or back of the field and just didn’t have a great, or even good, qualifying lap. With the PJ1 (also known as “Sticky Stuff” ) being used on the track, it is my view that it won’t last throughout the race and the top groove will be where just about everyone ends up running by the end of the night.

The Hendrick Teams looked to be struggling for speed during the practice sessions and in qualifying and it could be a long night for most, if not all, of the HMS teams. Yeah, I know there were some bright moments but this fan just didn’t see the usual speed and balance they usually acquire by qualifying and race time. I can’t tell if they are holding back and trying not to show what they really have for the playoffs or if they just don’t have the edge yet. Chase Elliott has shown a little consistency in the speed department along with Kasey Kahne (well, at least somewhat when it comes to Kasey) but Jr. and Johnson just haven’t looked all that good for a while. Jr. appears to just be struggling to find the speed and handling and Johnson just hasn’t had the speed or the handling.

When it comes down to it, Jr. still needs that win if he wants to have a chance at making it into the playoffs is this his final year. As it stands right now, at least from this fan’s view, he still hasn’t got that snownball’s chance in that very hot place I mentioned last weekend to make it in without getting a win. The pressure is definitely on for him and his team but unfortunately, without a win he won’t be in.

The same goes for the Penske Ford’s… neither Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski have shown the consistency it takes to win at Bristol and, although this fan thinks either of them could step it up and take the win, I just don’t see it happening. That would definitely be bad news for Joey Logano because as it stands right now, he is another one that won’t be in unless he wins one either at Bristol or one of the remaining tracks before the playoffs start.

So let’s see… the drivers will have to contend with the PJ1 slowly disappearing as the race progresses, the stages, the tight pit road and tight pit stalls and high emotion and elevated stress levels for those trying to win or just make it in for 500 laps. Add to that the fact that the Bristol Motor Speedway is the fastest half mile track in the world and drivers that want to get to the front by going two and three wide on a regular basis and there will be frustration and high emotions (which is just a normal thing for racing Saturday Night Under The Lights) and you have one thing… That’s right, “It’s Bristol Baby!!!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 19, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Chances Winding Down – Cup Teams Take On Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams take on the Michigan International Speedway for the second time in a little less than two months. Once again they will challenge the recently repaved track and it remains to be seen if the track surface will allow at least two grooves for racing or if it will still be basically a one grove race track. On their last visit to MIS, it was pretty much one groove and the best one happened to be the higher one.

Maybe it’s just me but it seems that the speeds are a skosh bit higher than last time but this fan doesn’t know what difference that makes since they enter the turns at over 200 mph. Brad Keselowski qualified right at 203 mph and that means he was entering the turns at a good clip above 200 and likely easily above 210 mph. No matter how you look at it, that’s FAST. In fact, there isn’t that much separating the top ten or twelve when it comes to qualifying speeds and that means it could be tough to pass all afternoon. Well… at least pass on the track. That will put more pressure on the crews to make really fast pit stops and try to help their driver pass as many competitors as possible in the pits. It will also put an extra bit of pressure on the crew chiefs to come up with a strategy to help get, or keep, their driver out front. At Michigan, that’s a challenge most any time.

Meanwhile, the chances are winding down for those that hope to get a win to lock themselves into the playoffs. There are only three spots left and there are at least five plus vying for those coveted spots. A couple of them absolutely need a win to make it in and the others cannot afford to have a bad day at Michigan or the following three tracks or they might not make it in. If there are no new winners over the next four races, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth would likely make the playoffs with points. If any of the three have a bad day at Michigan or any of the three remaining tracks, it lessens their chances of making the playoffs on points and adds them to the list of needing a win to make it in.

Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer really need a wins to clinch a spot in the playoffs and, if that does happen, it will really mix up the chances for the other three. It doesn’t stop there though. If one of the non-winners for 2017 does win, any one of the remaining spots is less likely to be taken by points and becomes more of a must win situation to get in for those close in points but no wins yet. From this fan’s view, that makes Michigan and the next three races very interesting at the very least when it comes to points or wins whether or not the racing is good, bad or indifferent.

Once again, (and I really hate to keep bringing it up), that brings us to the possibility of Dale Jr. making it into the playoffs in this his final season in regular competition in the Cup Series. He absolutely needs to win to have any chance at all and if he and his team can’t turn it around over the next three or four weeks, well… let’s just say it’s all over for his chance to win a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship. Presently he sits 22nd in points and, barring what this fan would call “miraculous intervention”, he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in a very hot place of making it in on points. I repeat… he absolutely needs to win to get in and he needs it in the worst way.

Earlier I mentioned Joey Logano and he needs a win because his chances are wearing thin also. He is 67 points behind Clint Bowyer and depending on how the flags fall for him in the next four races, he has the least likely chance of making it in on points. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t but I am saying his options are becoming more and more limited. Without a win it is quite likely someone else will get in on points even if there are a couple of new winners over the next four races.

The first practice and the qualifying sessions showed the Fords to be very fast, at least in one lap speeds and that could mean trouble for the rest during the Pure Michigan 400. As of the final practice, at least from this fan’s view, it does look like they may get some competition from the other manufacturers. It is not uncommon, also from this fan’s view, for one manufacturer to show themselves fairly dominant during practice and qualifying only to drop like rocks on race day.

I don’t expect that to happen during the Pure Michigan 400 but I do expect the racing to be pretty competitive and I’m just not so sure a Ford will end up in Victory Lane. Well… unless it is the Ford driven by Clint Bowyer or one of the previous winners in a Ford this season. I’m not ruling anyone or anything out but, I think this could be a very intense, competitive and emotional 400 miles… What do you think?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 13, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Monster Energy Cup Teams At The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Probably the fastest Road Course many drivers ever face in their careers is the road course at Watkins Glen. Whether you think about Formula I or NASCAR Stock Car Racing, The Glen is a very fast road course and it is definitely challenging for all concerned. With the lowered down force NASCAR instituted this season, it is even more of a challenge for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams than ever. Yes, that’s right, even more than last year’s visit was.

Once again, NASCAR, in their infinite wisdom has also done something to shorten up the weekend a little and also add a little drama to the racing. Last week at Pocono we saw qualifying and racing taking place on the same day and it will happen again this weekend at The Glen. I’m not sure exactly what to think about that at the moment but I will say it is different. In some ways it does remind of days on the short tracks and how things were run. We showed up, practiced a little and then either ran our races or had time trials. However, this is NASCAR Cup and it takes a little getting used to (at least for me.)

Like I said, I haven’t decided one way or another about it but do lean heavily towards liking it. Sure it is different and it does change things a bit but it is interesting to see how the teams handle it. From my view, the only real difference is that they don’t have overnight to think about things and make or plan changes. Also from my view, that just makes it more interesting when the race starts and we really find out who did the best job in preparing for the race. I’m not sure what many of you think about it but you have to say it is, at the very least, interesting.

With the opportunities winding down for those that would like to win to get in to the playoffs, the pressure is on for them to win. Some of those that need to win are coming to a crossroads unless they do win and for some of them, a win is the only thing that might get them in.

One of those that likely needs to win or he won’t get in is Dale Jr. Adding to the speculation that he might not win this one is that, at the time of this writing, during practice he was not at all happy with the way his car was handling. In fact, the Hendrick Chevys didn’t look that good at all. Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne all just didn’t appear to have the speed needed to compete up front but that could all change by the time they qualify before the race tomorrow. Of the four HMS drivers, a win would really only help Jr. or Chase since Johnson and Kahne are already in. Still, this fan doesn’t think they really want to run and finish in the middle to back of the pack. That just doesn’t sound like something Hendrick Motor Sports would be happy with at all.

Another one that would really like to have a win is Matt Kenseth. He would actually kill two birds with one stone if he did win. The first would be that he pretty much locks himself into the playoffs and the second is it would be his first win at The Glen and it is one place he would like to claim a victory at. Since he is leaving JGR at the end of this season, it would be a shame for him to go and not at least make it into the playoffs at the end of the season racing for JGR. (Well, at least that’s the way some look at it…)

Joey Logano is another one that needs a win and, although he has five more chances before time runs out for him to take a win, this week and next are likely his best chances. That’s not to say he couldn’t win at the other three tracks coming up, it’s just this fan’s view his better chances are at The Glen and Michigan. Now I’m not saying he won’t find a way to get into the playoffs but I am saying he’s got his work cut out for himself.

I don’t know, but I would kind of like to see Jamie McMurray make it into the playoffs and a win in the next five races would definitely put him there. Why not a win at The Glen? He is capable and it would be interesting to see it happen.

There are several others that could win at The Glen and one of them is Clint Bowyer. He is probably a dark horse to do so but a win could surely be a boost to him and his team. Michael McDowell has been performing better more consistently and could really end up in Victory Lane when it is done. The problem with all of this conjecture on my part is that it is just that – conjecture and though I am good at it, there are a number of drivers that could take the win at The Glen and although I have a few I’d like to see win, I’m just not sure which of them really will…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 5, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Monster Energy Cup Teams Return to Pocono from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Well, the Monster Energy Cup teams return to Pocono and not a whole lot is different for them. Oh it is still the Tricky Triangle and it is still a challenge for all of the teams simply because of the way it is designed but not much else changes. They still say it only has three turns, I say it has six. They say there is no turn four, I say there is. I know it doesn’t matter at all what I think and no matter how much I talk about the way they count the turns, still nothing much changes.

I do admit the Tricky Triangle lives up to its name because it is just that – Tricky! It is a definite challenge for the teams simply because the turns are all different and it requires the crew chief and the driver to compromise. No matter how much he would like to, the crew chief will never make the driver happy in all three of the turns and the driver will never get the crew chief to give him (or her for that matter) what he or she wants in all three turns. It’s just one of those tracks that a driver will have to make do with what he has been given and the crew chief will have to make sure to keep his driver calm and convinced it is as good as it’s going to get.

By now, I’m sure you all know that everything I just said is just my opinion and definitely not the opinion of the driver and crew chief. I am also sure you know that the driver will never be happy with what he’s got and crew chief will always be trying to convince him he has exactly what he asked for and needs. It will be a challenge for all concerned throughout the afternoon.

There is already a lot going on in the standings and there are still several in the top sixteen without a win. Kyle Bush needs a win almost as badly as Dale Jr. wants one and both of them would pretty much be in the playoffs if they both get a win. Of course, we all know they can’t both win the same race but either one of them could win this one at Pocono.

Of the two, Kyle has had the most opportunities to win a Cup race in the 2017 season and has had every one of them slip away from him, often at, or near the end of the races. This fan has watched in disbelief as every one of them has slipped away from him through many different circumstances. I will say this though, considering the Kyle Bush in past years, he is handling these setbacks relatively well. Look, I know he isn’t perfect and he does react quite humanly at times but he has grown and matured and handles things much better than he used to; it is good to see. If there aren’t four more winners over the next six races, Kyle should be in on points, otherwise he likely won’t make it.

Dale Jr. absolutely needs a win because he just isn’t close to making it in on points. He is another one of those that has looked like he was going to have good finishes or maybe even a win and has watched them slip away for one reason or another. At times, it has almost been humorous to watch. I don’t mean any disrespect and I definitely don’t mean that to sound like it is funny. It is just that he has had the strangest things happen, like being taken out by his team mate, Jimmie Johnson, to missing a shift and blowing his engine not just in the race, but in practice the same weekend. It has definitely been something to see.

Clint Bowyer has kind of had the same racing luck as Jr. Even when he has been running second, he has either run out of laps or has had some of the strangest accidents costing him a possible victory.

Time is also running out for Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Chase Elliott. Jamie has been running consistently all season but just hasn’t taken a victory yet. Matt and Chase have had similar seasons as well.

All of these are the ones most often mentioned to be in the playoffs but none of them is a definite. Pocono is a track that could have a totally unexpected winner and that could make all of the difference as the races dwindle down to a precious few. It is also a track that one of the previous winners this season could win and that would take another chance away from those that need to win. The pressure is on those that want to make it in and the tension is beginning to show as their chances become less and less.

Pocono is just the beginning of probably some of the most intense racing of the season. The tracks ahead are of several different types, Watkins Glenn, Michigan and a return to Bristol. Let’s see… a road course, a big, wide, fast 2 miler and a Short Track with high banks and high speed. The next three weeks should prove to be very, very interesting…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 29, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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

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Rusty Norman

You can pretty much ask any race fan and they will tell you there is something special about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What really made it special to NASCAR fans was when they started racing at the Speedway and it has been interesting to see Stock Cars make their way around the 2.5 mile oval, reaching speeds of over 200 miles per hour on the straights. Considering the size of the cars and their weight, it is amazing how well they traverse the turns after the high speed runs down the straights. This year’s Brickyard 400 should prove to be as interesting, and probably more so, as any of them so far.

New challenges face the drivers and teams this year since the rules have changed for the cars from last year. They will still be running down the straights and entering turns one and three at, or over, 200 miles per hour but they have a much shorter spoiler and lower down force. For some, that could spell trouble especially when they enter the turns in a pack or during starts and restarts. In fact, the double-wide starts and restarts have always been exciting at Indy and this fan doesn’t think that has changed at all and could be even more exciting because of the rule changes, especially those affecting the down force.

Another thing that might make the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 a little more interesting on Sunday afternoon would be the stages. The first and second stages end at lap 50 and lap 100 respectively and the final stage ends at lap 160. Well… that is if there isn’t overtime and that is a definite possibility. I’m not saying there will be overtime but I do think this one could come down to the strategy for fuel and tires and which of the teams really wants to stretch both.

A few things to remember about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; it is a large track, (2.5 miles), it is a relatively narrow track, it is a fast track and it is essentially a flat track. All of those things considered together add up to exciting and dramatic racing. Another couple of things that might surface would be frustration and impatience which could lead to some emotional outbursts either verbally or with bumpers. I really think the speeds are too high for retaliatory paybacks but one never knows these days.

There are a few drivers that really need a win to possibly clinch a spot in the playoffs and that is adding to the stress and drama each week as we move closer to them. There are five in the top sixteen points places that have no wins yet this season. That makes every week a little more stressful for them as the races wind down to the playoffs. Even though they may be good in points, they are vulnerable to someone that is a new winner for the 2017 season. Wins pretty much assure one to be in the playoffs at least until the top sixteen spots are filled or the time is running out for some to take a win outside of points standings. Like the format or not, it does make things v-e-r-y interesting.

So those that don’t have wins but are in the top sixteen in points are, Kyle Bush, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, and Matt Kenseth. Any one of them could win the Brickyard 400 and any one of them would love to have a lower stress level for the next several weeks if they do. Unfortunately all of them have run good enough and could have won already – they just haven’t.

There are several that already have wins this year and would like to add to their numbers. Some would like to have more stage wins and bonus points to take into the playoffs and some would just like to take their first win at the Brickyard. Winning at Indy isn’t quite the same as winning at Daytona but it is big and those that haven’t won at least one at Indy definitely want to.

Of course all of the drivers want to win, especially at Indy but some just don’t have what it takes, equipment wise, to do so. Others do have what is needed to win and very well could end up in Victory Lane when this one is over. It could even be one whose name isn’t mentioned all that often. Can you imagine what winning the Brickyard 400 could mean to them and their team?

Probably the fan favorite to win (and hopefully qualify for the playoffs) would be Dale Jr. This is his final year in full time competition in Cup and it is his last time to try and win the Championship. His chances of qualifying for the playoffs are winding down and, at the moment, he isn’t in the top sixteen in points either. No matter how you look at it, he NEEDS a win and he is quite capable of winning at Indy. The question is, will he?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 22, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.con m and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Monster Energy Cup Teams Take On Loudon from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

It shouldn’t be like the usual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Loudon, New Hampshire Sunday afternoon – it should be different. The reasons why (at least from this fan’s view) I’ll get to shortly but this one should be a very interesting afternoon at the races for the drivers, teams and fans alike.

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway is basically a flat track which makes for a very interesting entry into the turns from the long, fast straights. In the past it has been basically a one groove race track and a place where it has been hard to pass. NASCAR (in its infinite wisdom) has allowed the track to put down a substance to give more traction on the higher groove and also added a section on the low groove.

As a long time fan, I have mixed emotions about trying to make the racing more interesting to the fans by adding “Sticky Stuff” to the track. Look, I’m all for closer racing and being able to get more traction but there comes a time when one has to question that enough is enough. Why they choose to put the extra grip substance only on certain parts of the track is interesting in itself and I marvel at their creativity. I do realize they are trying to make the three grooves more equal but I do question putting something on the track that will likely go away as the race progresses. Whether or not it will work as they hope remains to be seen and it also remains to be seen if they will change where the substance is applied by the race on Sunday afternoon. After all, they’ve already changed it once since the first practice.

From my view during the practice and qualifying sessions, it appeared that the only thing really accomplished by the addition of the Sticky Stuff was to move most of the drivers up to the other groove or down for that matter. It was also a precarious thing and, if they got out of it, the loss of traction was very obvious, especially if they got out of it on the high side. Also, at least from this fan’s view, they had to manage how they exited the turns so they wouldn’t lose control as they left the turns and entered the straights. Like I said, I have mixed emotions about the addition of the Sticky Stuff but I am willing to save my final assessment until after the race on Sunday afternoon – (or I may forget about the whole issue completely because the racing was so good.)

Be that as it may, the racing at Loudon is always interesting simply because of the character of the track. Since it is basically a flat track (as I mentioned earlier) and is an extremely fast track to boot, passing is not something that can be done with regularity and that means emotions readily surface and are often displayed openly. This will definitely be a race where the emotions and frustrations will become obvious as the race wears on to its finish. It will be obvious by the actions drivers take on the track and by the conversations between the drivers, crew chiefs and spotters. Don’t be surprised if there are some “not-so-nice” things said in both directions in communications between drivers and their teams and with the front bumpers of the cars. It could get quite colorful and there may even be a few “apologies” from the commentators on some of the emotional frustrations verbally expressed on-air. (In other words, there just may be a “whole lotta bleeping” going on.

Once again, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson led the way in practice and in qualifying. Actually, Kyle Larson qualified for the pole but his time was disallowed when his car failed inspection after qualifying. That put Truex Jr. on the pole and moved Jimmie Johnson to the second spot. That’s the second time Larson’s car has failed inspection in two weekends and it is beginning to add up to some pretty hefty penalties aside from having to start in the rear again this weekend. In this fan’s opinion that probably won’t matter all that much since he is very good at moving from the back to the front during a race, sometimes more than once and especially lately.

It still remains to be seen if the JGR Toyotas can finally pull off a win for 2017. What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time they were dominating in their performance and wins and this year it is just the opposite. Not that they haven’t shown up with good speed and not that they haven’t been running with the possibility of taking a win. They just haven’t done so yet and it just wasn’t what this fan expected from them this year. I suppose all of that could change very quickly but it is interesting that a JGR associated Toyota is leading in the points (of course that would be Truex’s Furniture Row Toyota) but the rest of the Toyotas just haven’t been there at the end of the races.

From this fan’s view, it does appear there have been a lot of penalties handed out this year and almost every week lately there have been many cars having to go through inspection multiple times before they could qualify or race. That tells me the crew chiefs are pressing the envelope on every possible thing they can. It also tells me the competition is extremely close. One thing it doesn’t tell me is why it seems just a few cars seem to be really dominating in performance almost every week. One of those is Martin Truex Jr. and he just might take this one from the pole and do it in dominating fashion. Of course, there are those stages we need to take into account and the strategies the crew chiefs come up with to put their guy in front…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 15, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.con m and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take on Kentucky from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams take on the Kentucky Speedway Saturday night and it should prove to be a very interesting race. It’s another Saturday night under the lights and for this fan, there’s just nothing like NASCAR’s Saturday night races. It reminds many of us where we used to spend many of our Saturday nights whether we were just fan’s or whether we were drivers sitting in our cars waiting for the green flag to wave as we started our races at our local tracks. Like I’ve said many times before; there’s just something special about Saturday night racing and NASCAR races on a Saturday night are no different.

The Kentucky Speedway is a challenging track and this fan doesn’t think it was by accident. They built it the way they built it for a reason and it is a unique track with its own character. If they had built it the same at both ends it likely wouldn’t have been the challenge that it is. Instead, they made turns one and two different from turns three and four and that’s one of the things that makes it so challenging.

In case you’re not familiar with the Kentucky Speedway, turns one and two have 17 degrees of banking and turns three and four have 14 degrees of banking. To add to the challenge of getting through turns three and four, it is a little downhill from the entry to the exit. The difference between the two drives the crew chiefs and engineers crazy when it comes to setup and frustrates the drivers to no end, looking for the right feel at both ends of the track.

Qualifying was cut short after only two of the three planned rounds but Kyle Bush set a new track record and won the pole for the Quaker State 400 for Saturday night. Not only that but he also qualified first for the Xfinity series race that was delayed for the same weather reasons until Saturday afternoon. That makes for a very busy day for any of the drivers expecting to run in both series races. It all adds up to at least 700 miles they will run if they complete all of the laps in both series races. Hopefully it won’t be a real hot day and night of racing for them but hey, I know they’re in much better shape than most of us fans. I’m sure they’ll know they’ve had a workout when both races are done though…

The speeds are definitely up this year at the Kentucky Speedway and, during qualifying, Chase Elliott was the first to break the old track record and he was at the top of the list for the first round. From this fan’s view, it looks like he might be one to watch when it comes down to the final laps of the Quaker State 400. He is looking for his first win and looking to be qualified for the playoffs – well, at least hopefully be qualified.

If anything can be said or assumed about the Hendrick teams for this weekend, it did appear all of them had good speed and qualified in the top fifteen. That means it could be a Hendrick team celebrating in Victory Lane at the end of the night. Kasey Kahne looked very strong and, if any one of the HMS Chevys need to have a good night it would be him. He has struggled almost all season long and it hasn’t always been his fault. He just needs a few breaks to go his way and he could take the checkered flag and the trophy. I’m not saying he will; I’m just saying he could…

It is definitely coming down to crunch time for the JGR Toyotas and all of them were showing good speed in practice and qualifying. It could be that Kyle Bush wins it from the pole or it could be that one of his teammates ends up in Victory Lane. I just don’t know how it will go for them. They haven’t shown the same strength and domination they did last season by this time and it does seem they have been struggling at least somewhat. All of them, Kyle, Denny, Matt and Daniel, have had good runs but just haven’t been there at the end. Maybe this night will be different for them. Who knows… they may sweep the top four (and wouldn’t that be something…)

I haven’t talked about the Stewart/Haas teams much lately but it seems they might be poised to have another winner soon. It may not be at Kentucky but it could be any of them over the next few weeks. Clint Bowyer has been steady but just hasn’t quite been in first place at the right time. I’m not saying it will but, it could change for him right here at Kentucky.

When it comes down to the final laps, I’m expecting it to be a battle and not really a runaway for just one of them. Of course I could be wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time) but there are a lot of drivers looking to win and needing a win. I expect that to show as the laps wind down and the strategies play out. Who knows… Dale Jr. might be able to actually finish and could easily end up in Victory Lane. But then again, so could several others I haven’t mentioned. Oh well… that’s just the way it is in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racing…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 8, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.con m and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Coke Zero 400 At Daytona from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Well… it’s that time again. Every summer at this time two things happen with regularity. The first is we celebrate the birth of our nation and the declaration of our independence and the second is a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Daytona. Although it has gone and goes by different names over the years, one thing that hasn’t changed is the excitement and drama that has always been a part of this race. This year it is once again called the Coke Zero 400 and it is one of the races most looked forward to by the fans and probably best of all, it is a Saturday night race.

One thing that probably makes this Coke Zero 400 of more interest to many is the fact that it will be Dale Earnhardt Jr’s final race at Daytona. Well… at least it will be his final race in regular competition in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series at Daytona. Who’s really to say if it really will be the last time he runs at Daytona in either the 500 or the 400 in the future. He has already hinted he wouldn’t turn down a chance to win more races at Daytona. He just doesn’t want to continue in the regular week to week grind that is the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as driver.

One thing this fan has to admit it that Dale Jr. is a great restrictor plate racer. He has won many races at Daytona although not all of them have been in the Cup series. He and his dad have definitely been dominators at the restrictor plate tracks and especially at Daytona.

Jr. Nation is particularly excited and happy about the race tonight because he is the pole winner and will lead the field to the green flag. It is his first pole of the season and could bode well for his chances of winning tonight. His car is fast and he is confident. The two together could mean he ends up as the one celebrating in Victory Lane when all is said and done.

Three of the Hendrick teams are starting in the first two rows and it does look as though the HMS Chevys have shown up ready to take it to the rest of them. Even Kasey Kahne looks strong and sounded confident in his car and chances for tonight also. Another one to look out for from the HMS garage is Chase Elliott. He is starting outside his teammate Dale Jr. on the front row.

The only one from HMS that didn’t show the same speed was Jimmie Johnson but that doesn’t mean we should count him out as one to watch when it comes down to the final laps. It all depends on how things go. After all… this is restrictor plate racing.

From this fan’s view, it does appear some of the changes NASCAR has made to the down force package has changed the face of restrictor plate racing again. Along with the addition of the stages, the restrictor plate races have become more aggressive and it no longer seems as possible to just sit back and wait for the final few laps to make a move. These days, the drivers seem to press for an advantage almost every lap and try to do their best to stay up front ahead of their competitors.
It’s just not like the “old days” of just a few years ago. At that time, just those few years ago, the plate races could be rather hum drum, particularly in the middle laps, and there wasn’t any real racing going on until the last fifty miles or so. With the lower down force and the stage racing, a lot goes on during almost every lap. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some times when the racing isn’t as intense. It just means there does appear to be a whole lot more intensity and drama since they lowered the down force and added the stages.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I love restrictor plate racing and I particularly like it when they run in large packs door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper. I don’t think there’s anything quite like it and I don’t think I’m the only fan that feels that way. From my view, I see a lot of people showing a lot of interest in the close pack racing and the renewed intensity of the restrictor plate races. I also recognize the drivers have their own thoughts on restrictor plate racing and some of them simply tolerate them because it is part of the NASCAR season.

Hmmm… Or maybe it’s just because they don’t like playing Chess all that much…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 1, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Sonoma from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams take on the Road Course at Sonoma this weekend. There will be some different faces (though at least one of them will be familiar, Boris Said) and a whole lot of right turns to go along with a few left ones. Why does this matter? Well… I’ll give you my opinion of that but just maybe it is because this race at Sonoma will be very different than those in the past.

Although there are several things that come to mind that will be different, one in particular is there are some new faces taking to the track with the rest of those “seasoned veterans” and some of them have never been on this track in a cup car. That may or may not make a difference but it is interesting to watch them learn the nuances of Sonoma.

There always seems to be some media hype about the addition of the stages and their addition to this road race at Sonoma just might make for a more interesting race over all. (Well, that is this fan’s opinion anyway.) Since the track is long, a little over 2.5 miles, the race is short lap-wise and is probably as physically demanding as it is mentally and does tend to elicit strong emotions at times.

I don’t know why the media folks talk so much about the stages since we are so far along in the season. From this fan’s view it definitely has already been shown the stages have added drama and intensity to the races this season. I wasn’t one that really cared one way or the other about the addition of the stages when they were first introduced to us at the beginning of the 2017 season but I have noticed the change they have made.

In most every race, the stages have been a force in driving the interest in the races even through the middle and latter parts of the races before the end press to the checkered flag. It appears the drivers want to take all the possible playoff points to the playoffs as they can. So far, Martin Truex Jr. has the most and he is a good enough road racer that he could take a few more this weekend and maybe even the win.

But before I start talking about more of the possible winners for this event, let’s talk about another thing that is different for this one over the last one at Sonoma.

One of the most noticeable changes to the cars this season, at least in this fan’s opinion, is the much reduced spoiler on the rear. Along with that change there is the change in the front splitter and between the two, there has been a noticeable reduction in down-force. That reduction has been noticeable in several ways at many of the tracks but the most important is the way it has affected the braking of the cars. Since there is reduced down-force and drag the speeds have been faster, especially on the straights, and that has resulted in many having to change the way they brake going into the turns.

At some tracks this has resulted in brake failures along with torn up race cars and early exits from those races. In any of those circumstances, some of the wrecks haven’t been pretty and the drivers have often emerged from their cars stunned or with the breath knocked out of them. No matter how you look at it, the reduced down-force is going to be something the drivers are going to have to deal with. At Sonoma this weekend, this fan expects there will be some problems caused by the reduced down force and it has already been shown during the practice sessions that wheel hop is going to be a very real problem for some, if not all of the competitors at some point in the race and could be a deciding factor in who wins.

Sonoma is a track that requires finesse and smooth transitions at just about every turn of the track. It isn’t a track that can be attacked with reckless abandon and it will require patience and perseverance for the entire race. There will be no room for mistakes on pit road and mistakes on the track can lead to disaster for any of the drivers. Speeding on pit road is going to prove very costly for anyone that doesn’t keep it within the timing limits and it could also make a difference in winning and losing this one.

There are a lot of really good road course racers in the cup series right now and there are some we just don’t know how they will do. The Bush brothers, Kyle and Kurt, are both excellent road coursers and either of them could win. Clint Bowyer is another and, with his performance so far this season, he is about due for a win this season. Besides, he has won here before and it wouldn’t surprise this fan if he does it again on Sunday.

Some others that deserve mention are Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick along with a host of others. In fact, there are many that could win this one but I am just not sure which one has the best chance.

Of course we all know this is Dale Jr.’s last race at Sonoma since he is retiring from competition at the end of this year. He is also a good choice for a possible winner on Sunday afternoon and, judging from his practices and performance over the last few years, he has as good a chance of winning as any in the field. Personally, I’d like to see it but he isn’t one of my top choices even though I do like surprises…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 24, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Michigan High Banks And High Speed from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

After last week’s high speed, low down force venture into braking mayhem at Pocono, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams are probably looking forward to a little less of those type problems at the Michigan International Speedway Sunday afternoon. With the lower down force the speed on the straights at Pocono were faster so the brakes were used more and that was a big problem for some, especially when it came to the Hendrick Chevys.

Dale Jr. missed a shift twice on the weekend and blew two motors which added up to an expensive and poor finish. Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne both had brake failures and hit the wall also making for an expensive and poor finish for each of them. Of the two, Jimmie Johnson’s was the worst and his impact with the wall was hard and made another true test of the safer barriers that have been mandated by NASCAR in recent years. It totally destroyed his car and, though he exited his car he definitely had to sit down on the track and catch his breath. The crash looked extremely bad but as the oft used phrase goes, “It could have been much worse.”

Kevin Harvick also missed a shift but his Ford engine didn’t blow like Jr.’s and he finished second and almost took the win away from Ryan Blaney. Not only was it amazing that his engine didn’t blow but it was amazing to him and his crew chief that the engine didn’t lose any noticeable performance. Ryan Blaney simply outdrove him in the final laps or he would have likely won, even after over-revving the engine to over 12,000 rpm.

So what will be the difference between the high speeds at Pocono and those we will see at MIS? Well for one, the turns have higher banking along with a little banking on the straights. Even with the lower down force package, there should be less demand on the brakes even though the entry speeds will be high, especially the entry into turn one. Besides, the race last fall had this same package so the teams know a little bit more of what to expect. Michigan also has lots of racing room and being three or more wide in the turns won’t be unusual. That doesn’t mean nothing will happen but it does mean they have a bit more control over the situations when they do go several wide.

One thing to keep in mind as this race progresses is how close, speed-wise, a bunch of the teams are. There isn’t that much separation in speed and that usually means it will be hard to pass even though there is a lot of racing room. To this fan that can only mean a couple things and that is it could be a race that doesn’t have that much action and possibly a lot of single file laps.

Of course it could also lead to some interesting moments as drivers press the envelope of the car either next to them or in front of them. Judging from the practice sessions, it appears most of the drivers are spending most of their time in only one of the racing grooves. Venturing out of that groove has led some to lose control and some into the wall. That may or may not be a good thing as the race progresses and the only thing that might keep them from doing a lot of follow the leader could be the Stages.

From this fan’s view the addition of the Stages has definitely added some intensity to the first and middle parts of the race and it appears they no longer “cruise” for the first 60% to 75% of the race, waiting to begin pushing it until the last 50 miles or so. Now there is more of a reason to try and run up front, or at least close to it, for more than just the final checkered flag.

Many of the cars are entering turn one at, or in excess of, 215 mph. That’s fast at any track and let’s not forget at this two mile oval they don’t run restrictor plates. It does make one wonder what these guys would be running at Daytona and Talladega with no restrictor plates. Michigan has always been fast and it is no different this year than in the past.

As far as this fan is concerned there are a bunch of possible winners for this one. I’m not going to get into that here but I do have to say this could be a complete surprise when it comes to who celebrates in Victory Lane when it is over. What do you think? Will it be a JGR Toyota or a Penske Ford? Don’t know, do you? Neither do I but one thing I do know is the winner and his team are going to have work for it and they will have to win it not only on the track but in the pits and with their strategy calls…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 17, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated