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, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com 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, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s the Peak of Desperation for the Eliminator 8 at Phoenix

Published November 8, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

The race this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway will be one no NASCAR fan will want to miss. Since all we’ve heard all week since Texas has been mostly about the disagreement between the 24, 5 and 2 teams, I’ll try not to say too much about it but I really do have to express this fan’s view of the Texas race and those involved.

I’ve heard all of the comments about how Jeff Gordon opened up the hole and Brad tried to drive into it and I realize not everyone sees it the same way. In fact, there are many opinions of the incident and there are several sides to the whole issue. You have your opinion and this fan definitely has his own. Trust me, it isn’t because I am a Jeff Gordon fan instead of a Brad Keselowski fan – I just see it differently than some.

I’ve heard many say that Brad was just being aggressive. I can’t say I disagree with that and he was – very aggressive. Aggressive driving is nothing new for Brad Keselowski. It is what he has always been since he broke into NASCAR. Quite often, when anything is brought up about Brad, it appears that many forget the aggressive driving that almost put Carl Edwards into the stands one day and that incident injured several fans.

I realize that all of what happened that afternoon wasn’t Brad’s fault or intention but still it happened and Carl is the one that took it upon himself to check on the injured. Afterward, Carl decided it was time for a little payback here and there and eventually put Brad out of a race by giving him a push that sent him airborne hitting upside down drivers side against the wall. For the moment that was it for that.

Carl Edwards wasn’t the only one to have run-ins with Brads aggressive driving. Denny Hamlin had several with him and told all of us what he was going to do during a race in the following week. Making good on his promise, he pushed Brad down the straight-away spinning him.

Just a few weeks ago, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart all felt what was passed off as Brad’s aggressive style of driving at Charlotte and all of them handled those situations in their own ways that night. After his actions in Charlotte is it any wonder people are so unwilling to put up with his aggressive style as it comes down to the wire of making it into the Championship race at Homestead next week.

Without going into a longer dissertation about all of this, here is my point…

It doesn’t surprise me that anyone reacts to Brads “aggressive driving” the way they do and in particular the way Jeff Gordon did at Texas. Kevin Harvick stated it best when he said everything was fine until Brad decided to go into “bulldozer mode.” That kind of covers it all in one simple statement. Pretty much anyone can go out and force their way through people on the track in a race but, consistently, Brad seems to think it is okay to drive through people and they just need to understand it is “just racing…” In this fan’s opinion, the other side of that argument will someday come full circle and he will be the one wondering why he is being moved out of the way at every turn.

Oh well, enough of that for now and on to the Phoenix race.

It goes without saying that this one is for all the marbles for the four that will advance to Homestead with a chance to win the 2014 Cup Championship. To this fan that means all 8 of the teams with a chance to make it into the Championship round are desperate for a win or, at the very least finishing as close to the front as possible. Of course all the while they are hoping all of the others have problems that help their chances of making it to the final four.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the top two already know they only have to finish eleventh or better to lock themselves into the Championship round and that would be Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. Ryan Newman has to finish ninth or better to lock himself in and the other five, well they will be fighting for as many positions as they can get all the way to the end of the 312 laps and all of them will be looking to win.

Of all the races so far in the 2014 Chase, this one is the most important and will likely end up with at least as much intensity and emotion being displayed as any of the races that are, or were, the last chance for advancing into the next round. For four of them, it is now or never, at least for the 2014 season and for the other four… well… let’s just say next week could prove to be one of the most exciting Championship races ever…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 8, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Texas Is The Place for Chase Race #8

Published November 1, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

There are a lot ways people describe the Texas Motor Speedway and there are a lot of ways things can go wrong during the AAA Texas 500 for the NASCAR Cup drivers and teams on Sunday afternoon. But, one word won’t be used to describe it this weekend and that would be the word “slow.” Once again this weekend, a new track record was established for TMS and Tony Stewart now holds that record but… he didn’t win the pole. He is also now the person with the fastest recorded lap on a 1.5 mile oval in NASCAR but… he didn’t win the pole.

So what is that all about? Well, just in case you missed qualifying, even though Tony Stewart did register the fastest time, he did it in the second round of qualifying to qualify him to move into the final round but was only sixth fastest in that. Matt Kenseth in his Joe Gibbs Toyota won the pole by being the fastest in the final round and beat out Jeff Gordon by one thousandth of a second.

From this fan’s view, that’s about as close as anyone can come to not winning it and is just one example of how close the lap times are for many of the competitors this weekend. From this fan’s view that could mean a really exciting race on Sunday afternoon and it could spell trouble for those already in trouble for making it to the finale in Homestead. In fact, it could spell trouble for those that aren’t in trouble yet for making it to the final four.

Anyone that is paying attention at all will recognize the two in the most trouble as they face the next two races are Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Their Martinsville problems multiplied into the necessity for both of them to each win one of the next two races. Of course it depends on what happens to the other six in this elimination round of the Chase but winning is their best option for advancing to the Championship round.

Okay, enough about the obvious things that everyone already knows and let’s move on to some speculation from this fan’s view…

Since Matt Kenseth won the pole and he doesn’t have any wins this year, it is very possible this could be his weekend to take the trophy home for the AAA Texas 500. Stranger things have happened and, in particular with this year’s Chase format, Matt Kenseth could become the first one to lock himself into the final round with his first victory of the 2014 season. Even though his performance has been unexpectedly mediocre this year, he has been consistent enough at the right times to make as far as he has.

Ryan Newman finished third last weekend and is only three points behind Jeff Gordon as things stand right now. Like Matt Kenseth, Newman has no wins but has had a very consistent year as far as finishes go. He qualified seventh for the start of the race but could also go home with the trophy and lock himself into the finale even though this would be his first victory for 2014. I’m not saying he is going to win but I am saying a win would put him in the final four and hardly anyone (including this fan) expected that would happen if it does.

This fan has to admit he doesn’t expect Carl Edwards to win this weekend. He is driving for Roush and it is no secret they have struggled the most with the setups this year. However, he could win and completely surprise not only this fan but many others that have already ruled him out for making the final four. He hasn’t ruled himself out and, in the end, that can make all the difference as to whether or not he does make it through this round into the finale.

In reality, there are several of the eliminator 8 that can win this one and any one of them would like nothing more than to not have to worry about making it to the final four for Homestead. There are also more than a few quite capable of winning this one that are not in the Chase for the Championship anymore. There is no reason to go into a long list of names here because we all know which ones they are. What is important to remember is that if a non-Chaser wins the AAA Texas 500 Chase race #8, it makes next week at Phoenix all the more intense for those that haven’t yet locked themselves into the final four and anything can happen.

Once again, tires will be the most important factor when it comes down to the final laps and grip level will rule. From this fan’s view, this one could come down to a fuel mileage race if there are extended green flag runs, especially near the end. So, what will it be? Would you like to be a crew chief for this one and have to make the best guess for how this one is going to go at the final pit stop? Yeah… that’s what I thought you would say… Me neither…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 1, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR Chase Race 7 at Martinsville

Published October 26, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Martinsville… Challenging is probably an understatement, especially since it is only a half mile track, narrow and basically flat. Sure… the speeds won’t be over 200 miles per hour but the emotions will run about that high, in particular if the top eight still in the Chase need to move forward or get moved out of the way. For two thirds of the field it is all about winning and for most of the rest well, let’s just say it’s more about staying out of the way while still getting what you can and move on to next week.

Martinsville has always been a track that runs high with emotion. In fact this fan knows the emotions will be much higher than the speeds (as I mentioned above) but because there are three races for the eight remaining Chasers looking to qualify for the final four at Homestead, this Martinsville race means more than any in the past. So far in this year’s Chase it’s been shown that we as fans need to expect the unexpected. The intensity in every race has been at an extreme high and even at places where we didn’t expect to see really high emotions we have seen them.

I have to admit, I have been surprised at how much more interesting the end to this season has been compared to past years with this new Chase format. It has completely changed how the Chase is approached by the teams and how it is viewed and considered by the fans. By now in previous years, we pretty much knew which of the drivers would be the real contenders when it came down to the final race in Homestead. This being Chase race #7 (once again in past years) would mean the matchup for the finale would already have a few drivers that had accumulated more points than the others and the Championship would be out of reach for others.

This year it is different. This year momentum has shifted from those that had it for most of the season to the teams that possibly weren’t even expected to make as far as they have. Take for example the Joe Gibbs teams compared to the Hendrick teams. While we’re at it, we might as well include Joey Logano compared to Jimmie Johnson. To this fan, those are probably the two biggest surprises and, at this point, I have already had to adjust my personal predictions of the drivers I thought would be in the finale at Homestead.

Before it all began, I had picked Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson to be shooting it out the Championship round in Homestead. Joey Logano wasn’t even on my radar and I really did expect Jimmie Johnson to grow stronger as the Chase progressed. Instead, Joey Logano has performed the best so far and Jimmie Johnson has had a relatively lack luster Chase and has been eliminated from contending for the Championship. Brad Keselowski has had and up and down time throughout the two previous segments and pulled a win out of the hat last weekend to make it into this elimination round of the Chase. I’m not even sure Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon will end up in the top four when it comes down to the Championship round and they were two of my strongest choices early on in the Chase.

The dark horses, at least from my view, are Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth. Something has happened at the Joe Gibbs camp and their Toyotas are faster than they have been all year. That’s a fact that I am sure has the others at least concerned. Of course you and I both know that Carl Edwards drives a Roush Ford and hasn’t had what could be called stellar performances this year but he did win two races. I guess I should mention here that he will be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing next season.

This fan thinks this race at Martinsville will be a typical Martinsville race. As I mentioned earlier, emotions will likely run high, especially if some of the eight remaining Chasers run into situations with their fellow competitors that costs them points or a win. The problem with this round of three races is that four of the eight will be eliminated and the best way to guarantee a spot in the Homestead four is to win. That puts extra pressure on the eight in this round to win and that could mean quite a bit more drama and, of course, the big “I” for intensity. It does seem, at least to this fan, that this could actually be one of the most interesting Martinsville races ever. Everyone already knows there is a lot riding on this one and, if someone other than a Chaser wins it, look out for next week. It could be even more interesting than this one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October25, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

In This Fan’s Opinion, It’s All About Racing Luck

Published October 22, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Well, when it comes right down to it, this fan thinks that some people have missed the point so far this season and in this Chase. When it comes to the Penske teams compared to the other teams that are in the Chase, it appears that their luck has been just a bit better than all the rest. I’ve heard many people and commentators talk about how well Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have performed so far and I can’t deny that they have done well but, I also have to say that there’s been quite a bit of racing luck that has gone their way, too. In fact, in this fan’s opinion, it’s been more about racing luck rather than just the strength of the teams.

Let’s compare a few things…

In one of the first races in this Chase Joey Logano had an engine blowup coming to the checkered flag and still finished fourth rather than further back. It could have happened sooner and completely changed where he is in this Chase.

Last week, Brad Keselowski was involved in an accident at Talladega and yet it didn’t affect the outcome of his performance that much simply because (in this fan’s opinion) he had a bit of good luck along with the hard work of his team. In that same race at Talladega, Joey Logano was also involved in spinning through the infield but because of “racing luck” his front splitter wasn’t ripped off as it has been for others this year when he went plowing nose-first through the grass. Some might say (and myself included) that was a bit of racing luck too. (I mean, what else could we attribute it to.)

On the other hand, let’s look at Kyle Bush and what happened to him at Talladega. He came into Talladega in the best points position of the non-winners in the contender round and really expected to be able to just have a decent finish and still move on to the elimination round. Unfortunately, he was slowing down to avoid an accident and gets hit from behind and because those racing luck “gods” as some call them, he ends up against the inside wall after hitting it hard and ends up done for the 2014 Chase no matter how hard they tried to fix his severely damaged car and quickly get it back on the track.

Dale Earnhardt Junior had a chance to win the race – if things went right for him – even though he was not performing as well at the end of the race as he was earlier in it. He got caught up in an incident with Greg Biffle, slammed into the wall and, because of not being able to win or finish up front, he is also done for the 2014 Chase.

Now, Jimmie Johnson had a relatively good race going at Talladega but hadn’t always benefited from “good racing luck” in races leading up to Talladega. Because of all that bad luck, (and just generally not performing like everyone expected), he was eliminated from continuing any further in the Chase, mostly because of the circumstances at the end of the race that kept him from winning even though he led the most laps for the day. (In this fan’s opinion, if that’s not bad racing luck, I really don’t know what is.)

So, what am I trying to say here? Well, I’ve heard a lot of people say how well the Penske teams have performed and I do have to agree but, I also have to say that the ugly beast called “racing luck” I’ve been talking about could turn on them at any time. It may be at a very unfortunate time, in particular during the elimination round, or worse yet, when and if they make it into the top four and the beast turns on them at Homestead. (Heaven forbid if they just happen to be leading the race with only a few laps to go and the ugly beast attacks, completely ruining their day.)

Just like the beast attacked Kyle Busch at Talladega, any one of the eight in the elimination round could see the beast of racing luck turn against them and eliminate them from the final four. It is also possible that it could affect anyone of them after they get into the final four in that final race at Homestead in the middle of November going for the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship.

We’ve all heard it said, “when it’s your year, it’s your year,” but from this fan’s view, this year in particular it seems as though the Penske teams have benefited much more from good racing luck than they have from bad racing luck. Now I’m not saying that they haven’t tasted the wrath of that beast called “racing luck” but I am saying that they have fared far better than many of the others have so far throughout these first 30 races in 2014.

Will it make any difference as we progress through this elimination round into the final four? Well, from this fan’s view that beast can raise its ugly head at any time against anyone and all of them are just hoping that it’s not them. Well, at least not them being in the right place at the wrong time when the beast attacks…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 22, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s NASCAR Chase Race #6 at Talladega

Published October 18, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Ok… picture this… just a nice, relaxing and pleasant drive on a Sunday afternoon in the fall in Alabama. Ok… now picture this… all of the above at around 200 mph. That’s what Chase Race #6 will be like Sunday afternoon, right… ???

NOT!!!

Well, at least for all but two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers it won’t be like that at all. This will probably be the least stressful race at Talladega Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick have ever had. The reason is they could finish in the 43rd and 42nd positions and it won’t affect their standings and advancement into the next segment of the 2014 Chase at all since they both have wins and advance automatically into the Elimination round. For the other ten still looking to make it in to the next segment of eight with only six open slots… well… let’s just say this race at Talladega “ain’t gonna be no relaxing and pleasant drive” on a this Sunday afternoon…

For ten of the drivers still contending for a spot in the Chase to continue a bid for the 2014 Cup Championship, this will be the most intense and dramatic race they have probably ever faced. You can hear it in their interviews and you can see it in their faces and on the faces of their crew chiefs and crews. This one is for all of the available marbles and, for four of them, there won’t be a next week as far as the Chase for the Championship is concerned.

I think, as a fan, I did kind of underestimate just how intensely dramatic and exciting this Chase was going to be this year. I didn’t really think about it that much during the first twenty-six races other than the fact is was going to be different – completely different. This Chase has completely changed the scenarios each week for the ones that will advance to the next segment and this could be a year when someone that only had a marginal year up to the Chase could win it all simply because they had a stellar performance in the last ten races of the season. (Well, at least compared to the ones they’ve out-performed in those weeks, anyway.)

So far, of the top five performers for this season, one of them is on the verge of not making the cut to the Elimination round and that would be Brad Keselowski. He absolutely has to finish at the front on Sunday afternoon or he is done. Of course we all know he can win at Talladega because he has before but he cannot afford to have any “situations” take him out of contention for this one or he will have to wait at least until next year to make his next try for his second Cup Championship.

Anyone that has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the Chase so far knows he’s not alone in what he has to do. Six time Champ, Jimmie Johnson, really needs to win this one or he is likely done for this year, too. His teammate, Dale Jr, has to win to guarantee his passage into the next segment or his stellar year for 2014 won’t go down as his first Cup Championship year. He will be just another also-ran and for his fans (which are many) it will be another disappointing year.

Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne are separated by one point which basically means the difference of one spot. If everything else stays the same as it is right now when the race is over, either one of them could be on the outside looking in. From this fan’s view, neither of them has had what could be called a Championship year and for one, or both, of them to advance to the next segment would be a surprise, at least to this fan. I expect to see Brad Keselowski advance more than I do them but, with the way things have gone so far in this Chase, anything can still happen (like Dale Jr winning again at Talladega and moving back into contention for the Championship.)

This fan finds it interesting that the Joe Gibbs teams seemed to struggle for most of the season and now there is the likelihood of all three of them making it at least to the Elimination segment of the 2014 Chase. Kyle Bush, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth have all been performing much better in the latter part of the season than they did in the middle months especially. It seems the fortunes of the Gibbs and Hendrick teams have swapped, in particular since the Chase has started. At one time, this fan didn’t think any of the Gibbs teams would be left by the Elimination round and it would be the Penske and Hendrick teams along with Kevin Harvick moving on to the next segment in preparation for the finale at Homestead. At this point, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen that way. (Oh well, so much for being a NASCAR prophet… but, I don’t think I’m alone in that either.)

Once again this weekend, this race is going to be all about intensity and drama mixed with pulling out all the stops when it comes to strategy. All of the ones that want to advance into round three of the Chase are going to have to finish at or near the front and that will be a challenge. After all… this is Talladega and there is always the possibility of getting caught up in someone else’s problem and being eliminated simply because of being in the right place at the wrong time.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 18, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Chasers Face An Intense Night Race At Charlotte

Published October 11, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

If anyone thought last week’s race at Kansas Speedway was intense and filled with a lot of drama well – (to coin an old phrase) – “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway will, in this fan’s opinion, be twice as intense and there will be no shortage of drama. The only one that won’t be feeling any extra pressure to perform will be Joey Logano even though this fan thinks he will try as hard as he can to win and keep any of the other Chasers from gaining any ground on him.

As it stands at the time of this writing, there are three of the twelve in the Contender Segment that will absolutely be feeling more heat to finish at or near the front simply because of the problems they had at Kansas last week. Two of them are former Cup Champions, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski and the other one is NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Jr.

One of the most repeated statements this fan has heard in recent weeks from the drivers is, “Well, you can’t win the Chase by winning one race in the first three segments but you sure can lose it by having a bad race.” So far, these three are feeling the effects of one bad race at an inopportune time and in one of the more intense segments of the new Chase format. It is one thing to have a bad race in the first race of a segment but it is quite another to have that bad race in a segment that includes as one of its races, Talladega. That almost makes the chances of having two bad races in one segment an absolute possibility.

Not all that long ago, NASCAR fans were treated to one of the most exciting and dramatic finishes to a Chase for the Championship between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. After the race at Homestead that year, the Championship ended in a tie and Tony Stewart won the Championship with the tie-breaker. As exciting as that year was right down to the wire of the last race of the year, this new format has taken sixteen drivers, pitted them against each other and can eliminate even the year’s strongest contenders in one of three segments leading up to the final at Homestead. Any team having a lack-luster or weak ten race end to their season can completely wipe out twenty six races of dominant performances and quickly eliminate them from winning the Championship. Looking at this year, that has a great possibility happening.

Of those that have had very strong seasons this year, some that were at the top of the list for much of this year are now on the bubble of being eliminated. Of those, the most mentioned name is Jimmie Johnson and it is somewhat of a surprise that the six time Cup champ is in danger of being eliminated from another run for the Championship. Brad Keselowski is another Cup champ that is in the same boat even though he has had strong year with a few ups and downs along the way. As much as many hate to even think about it, Dale Jr isn’t in much better shape to advance to the next segment even though he has had an outstanding year.

Jeff Gordon was the points leader for much of this year and now sits on the bubble of being eliminated if he has a bad finish tonight. Any of these four I just mentioned were on just about everyone’s list of being one of the four in the Championship race at Homestead. At this point, and from this fan’s view, all of these four need to win or finish in the top five tonight if they expect to have any great hope for advancing into the next segment which is correctly named the elimination segment. Of course, any one of them can have a bad night tonight and win at Talladega next weekend and still move on into the next round but, in this fan’s opinion, none of them seriously wants to go into Talladega needing to win to stay in contention.

I find it interesting that the drivers being talked about now are the ones hardly being mentioned as possible contenders for the Championship round at Homestead and I attribute much of that to the new elimination format for the Chase. It has definitely altered my thinking of how this year’s Chase might turn out and which one of the contenders will end up raising the Sprint Cup Championship trophy over their heads at Homestead.

Tonight’s race will be about track position, and keeping up with the track as it changes throughout the night. Considering the speeds they are running again this weekend I don’t rule out the possibility of tire failures altering the outcome of the race any more than last weekend at Kansas. Personally, although I do expect the cream to rise to the top, I just don’t know who might win this one. It could be a non-Chaser or it could be Joey Logano. This could even be the night that Kyle Larson wins his first Cup race or someone totally unexpected like, well… you pick one.

The Cup teams are now entering into the fifth race of the 2014 Chase and, unlike past years, the new format has completely changed the way the Chase for the Cup Championship is approached and can turn out. In years past even the teams that were at the top of the list in points could afford one really bad race, maybe even one or two “not so great” finishes and still come out on top. This year all of that has changed and a bad finish in one or two races in a row can knock out even the year’s strongest contenders. That’s just one reason this fifth Chase race at Charlotte Motor Speedway tonight is going to be absolutely filled with drama, intensity and high emotions… And then… next week is Talladega…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 11, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s About Intensity At Kansas and Chase Race #4

Published October 4, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

No matter how hard you try, you will be hard pressed to find someone that just wants to run around in circles on this Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. No matter what they say, they want to win. It will certainly be a lot more possible for some than for others but winning is on everyone’s mind for Chase Race #4. That goes double for those just eliminated from the Chase after Dover and probably triple for the remaining 12 still in contention. For the ones just eliminated, well, they have something to prove to the others, themselves and their fans.

Of course we all know winning is important every week no matter where people race but, at Kansas this weekend, a win for one of the twelve in the contender round of the Chase means the pressure is temporarily off – they automatically move on to the next round. Two reasons quickly come to mind about winning at Kansas for them; one would be breathing room for them for the next two weeks and the other would be one word – Talladega.

The format for the Chase for 2014 has been widely accepted as a great move by NASCAR and this fan has to agree. It has done exactly what they wanted it to do and that would be add intensity to the competition on the track every week which makes it appealing to NASCAR fans both old and new. This fan thinks they have done a great job in all aspects in coming up with the “elimination format” and have added much more excitement and drama to the full ten race schedule of the Chase.

It’s almost like every week is as intense as the last week of being able to qualify for the Chase presently held at Richmond. One big difference it has made is that there is no longer an accumulation of points going on for nine weeks and possibly going into Homestead without the one to be crowned as champ having to finish very high in the finishing order at all. That’s not to say that it’s always happened that way but the possibility was always there which would and could have made the final Championship race of the season a rather humdrum experience.

Kevin Harvick won the pole again this weekend and will start from the number one position for the eigth time this season. He and his team have been facing the dreaded monster of Racing Luck and mostly coming out on the short end. Anyone familiar with the beast of racing luck knows that eventually that luck has to turn around but Harvick put it best when he said he just hopes it happens before the end of this season. From this fan’s view that could be a possibility but, if memory serves, Kyle Bush has had to fight the same beast during the Chase in past years and hasn’t faired all that well. The #4 Stewart/Haas team definitely doesn’t want to repeat that type of performance, especially with the way they’re performing this season. I guess it just depends on who you’re favorite driver is whether or not you really want to see his luck turn around before this season ends or after the next one starts.

One of the more interesting things about the NASCAR Chase and other sports championship formats for crowning the Champs is that every week all of those still competing for the Championship still have to race 42 others each and every race even though they may only be competing against 16, 12, 8 or 4 others for the actual championship depending on which segment of the Chase they are in. I know I’ve mentioned this recently but, in some ways, that really could seem to complicate things. In reality, I guess it’s just another race weekend for the racers. It does however add to the stress of the drivers involved in the Chase if for no other reason than the trouble some of the other less competitive teams could cause for one or more of them. One bad pit stop or unexpected problem can put the contenders in a situation amongst those “others” that could cost them a chance at winning the Championship.

One question that seems to come every weekend during the Chase is, “What if someone other than one of the Chasers wins the race?” From this fan’s view, that is a very interesting question and has more than one answer.

First of all, it can happen any weekend and just makes the Chase more interesting if and when it does, at least from this fan’s view. Second, with Talladega coming up as the last race in this three race segment, a non-chaser winning at Kansas means 12 Chase drivers going for a win at Charlotte to cement a spot in the next segment before having to go to Talladega where there is a high percentage possibility of either not finishing or finishing poorly. Like I said, Kansas is all about intensity in Chase race #4 and depending on who might win this one makes next week all the more intense…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 4, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Teams Feel the Pressure To Tame The Monster For Chase Race #3

Published September 28, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

You’ve heard about the “need for speed”… well… this weekend is about the “need to tame”… the Monster. Of course you know I’m talking about the Monster Mile at Dover, Delaware and there are a minimum of four teams that need to tame it over the other twelve in this, the last race of the first elimination segment in the Chase. If they don’t, they will be the first four eliminated from advancing any further toward the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

One thing that can be said for the Monster Mile is that there is plenty of speed but the one biggest complaint heard from just about every driver is, “I have no grip.” Apparently that is going to be the main problem for the main event on Sunday afternoon. Whether it be because of the tire Goodyear brought or because of the racing surface and the temperature, I’m not really sure. It is obvious that the drivers are looking to their crews to find that grip but it is also obvious they’re just not finding enough to make the drivers happy.

For those that are on the outside looking in (well, at least outside the top sixteen in points) it is all about winning and not just finishing the AAA 400. For those that are 13th to 16th in points it is first about winning and, if one of them doesn’t win, it is how close to the front they end up. After that, it is a matter of which, if any, of the top eight or nine might have major setbacks and really shake up the order. At this point, at least from this fan’s view, no one of the top 16 is completely out of being able to advance to the next segment. It is just how the problems and points fall when the AAA 400 at the Monster is over.

One driver that was looking very good (at least through the final practice) would be Kevin Harvick. If this fan was to pick a driver that looks good to end up in Victory Lane Sunday afternoon it would be Kevin Harvick. He has been fast all weekend, won the pole and has shown a lot of strength in all of the practice sessions. He would probably be the obvious choice considering his performance so far this weekend but 400 miles at the Monster is a long way and a lot can happen. Simply looking strong and then finishing out front are two different things. This track came by its name honestly and it is a tough track to tame. (Wow, that almost sounded like Darlington, didn’t it?)

As a fan, I have to admit the changes made to the Chase format have made a difference, well at least so far. They’ve only finished two races but the pressure, drama and suspense has been greatly increased compared to previous years. Much of that is attributed to the elimination rounds of the format and the fact that a bad finish may not come at a time when it can be made up.

Four drivers are looking at elimination after this weekend’s race and it may not be the ones that presently sit in the 13th to 16th positions going into this race. If this race is anything at all like the first two of the Chase, it is just about guaranteed there will be some surprises before the AAA 400 is over, (kind of like Jeff Gordon cutting a right front tire down while running in sixth place near the end of the race last week.) As I said earlier, anything can (and probably will) happen.

Of course, any of the four that aren’t in the top 12 before the race could win and completely eliminate someone that was pretty confident of moving on to the next round. At this point for all involved in the Chase, it is definitely about getting as many points as possible or taking the checkered flag for those presently in the top 16 in points but not in the top twelve.

From this fan’s view, the pressure is definitely on the drivers and crews that are on the edge and that could mean a greater possibility for errors to be made by both. One thing is definitely certain about running at the Monster and that is that there is no room for mistakes if they expect to win or move on to the next round.

Even though he isn’t at the top of the list to win as far as many are concerned this weekend, Jimmie Johnson does have the best win statistics at this track with nine wins and he did win the last time the Cup teams visited this track back in June. If anyone has a chance to clinch his way into the next round with a win, it is Johnson even though Kevin Harvick has been strong all weekend.

Once again this week I have to ask some of the same questions I did last week. Will this be the race that someone outside the Chase will win and if it is, which one will it be? Could it be this is this when someone just outside of the top twelve turns the corner on their bad luck and takes the win, takes us all by surprise and vaults into the next round of the Chase?

Hmmm… here’s a provoking thought. This just may be the week where everything happens just like the practice and qualifying sessions suggest it should and there are no surprises?

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

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