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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Daytona, Restrictor Plates and Pack Racing


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Intensity Is Up For Cup Teams At Sonoma


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Well, it’s time to hit a road course in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series and this one should prove to be very interesting no matter how it turns out. A lot of things have changed since the last time the Cup teams visited Sonoma but one thing that has stayed constant for the 2014 season is the record-breaking speeds the Cup cars are running these days. It seems that at least twenty-two of the top qualifiers for Sunday’s race broke the old track record. Ten of those didn’t even make the top twelve and yet they’re running faster than they ever have that the Sonoma road course.

 

From this fan’s view, it’s just not like it used to be. When NASCAR would visit road course you could pretty well figure on any one of about six drivers that might win the race while the others would just endure it. These days however, it seems that at least 99% of the field loves to run the road courses and at least half of them are very good at it. Does that mean that those same six favorite choices won’t win? Not at all, and I don’t mean to imply that at all. I just want to say that there are at least twenty- two drivers that have a chance of winning on the road course at Sonoma Sunday afternoon and that’s a lot to choose from.

 

So, why do I even mention the word intensity in the title? Well now that’s an easy question and I’m really glad you asked it. The reason, at least from this fan’s view, is that the chances for making the Chase are beginning to wind down and if nothing else, many of the teams are scrambling to try and get their first victory. If some of the teams can get their first victory either at Sonoma or in the next few weeks, there’s a good chance they will make the Chase. (Well, that is if they’re in the top 20 in points and have that victory.)

 

It seemed that all of the drivers trying to qualify well for Sunday’s race did their best to treat the others as they would want to be treated while trying to get their fastest lap. This fan doesn’t think it’ll be that way Sunday afternoon however. In fact, simply because the time is growing short and there are those that really need to grab a victory, I expect this to be one of the more intense races we’ve had in a while. I really don’t think you’ll see many, if any, cutting other drivers any slack unless they think it might help themselves more than the other drivers.

 

Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t expect to see real aggressive driving until later in the race but, when it comes down to crunch time, I expect it to be all out and if anyone’s in the way, look out! Somebody may pull out all the stops and move whoever is keeping them from advancing out of the way (and we all know what that might cause… yeah, that’s right… some intense emotions.)

 

As usual, track position is going to be very important all day long. One of the dilemmas facing the crew chiefs as this fan sees it is how many stops it’s going to take to win the race. In listening to the chatter amongst the drivers and the crew chiefs one of the big unknowns is just how long the tires are going to last, at least competitively. At least some advantage can be gained by having better rubber on the car but I think much of the strategy is going to depend on how many and when the caution flags fall. I think that’s going to be the one thing that makes all the difference in this race at Sonoma compared to previous ones. Of course it’s a given that fuel mileage will figure into the mix but that too will figure in to when and how many cautions actually fall. It is possible that fuel mileage will have absolutely nothing to do with this race but it can never be counted out completely.

 

One thing that’s been hard to judge during the practice and qualifying sessions has been who is running best for the longest period of time. It is my suspicion that some of the drivers have been holding that information close to the vest because they just don’t want the others to know how good their cars are on the long runs. If, by chance, the race has very few if any cautions, the one that ends up in Victory Lane will be the one that has the best tire wear, fuel mileage and track position after their necessary pit stops.

 

Although there are some teams that have looked very strong during the practice sessions and qualifying, there’s no guarantee they will run strong all day. AJ Allmendinger and yes, even Kyle Larson, have looked strong throughout the practice sessions and qualifying. AJ seems to think he has a very good racing set up and that could mean he could win from his position on the front row next to Jamie McMurray who has the pole.

 

In past weeks this season, Kyle Larson has looked good in practice and qualifying but hasn’t always finished well. In fact, let’s not forget that he is just a rookie even though he has displayed some very good driving over the last several weeks. I just may have to agree, as many are saying, it’s probably just a matter of time until he ends up in Victory Lane and this just might be his week.

 

Generally, I like to stick my neck out a little and pick a winner by this time but, I don’t know that I’m going to do that this week. Although I do think there are many that can win there are only a few this fan thinks will win. Contrary to popular opinion, those names are names of drivers that have already won this year and only after the checkered flag falls will we know whether I was right or wrong… Hendrick Motor Sports anyone??

 

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 21, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR Cup Teams Take On Michigan


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The NASCAR teams will take on the Michigan international Speedway this Sunday afternoon and, as usual, competition and intense speed will be the order of the day. The competition will take place amongst the drivers on the track, in the minds of the crew chiefs and amongst the crews in the pits. All of this will be taking place over 200 laps and 400 miles in the Quicken Loans 400.

 

I know you’re probably getting tired of hearing this next statement but, there’s no denying that Hendrick horsepower once again showed up strong at Michigan throughout all of the teams using it whether it be the regular Hendrick teams or what are called Hendrick associated teams. It has definitely been something that has been fairly constant throughout the 2014 season. Yes, Hendrick horsepower has been leading the way when it comes to putting the horses under the hood whether or not the teams have been able to hook up all those horses to the track.

 

Now, that’s not to say that the Fords and Toyotas haven’t got any horsepower to speak of but of those two, the Toyotas appear to be struggling the most. I know there will be those that disagree with me on that but in reality, the Chevys (especially those with Hendrick horsepower under the hood) and the Fords have proved to be the strongest or fastest depending on how you look at it and the Toyotas just haven’t been that impressive throughout entire races on a regular basis yet. Yes I know that they’ve won but that doesn’t mean they’re all that fast. What it means (at least from this fan’s view) is that the fastest cars don’t always win if the circumstances are right. (I’m guessing that at least a few of you people out there just might agree with me on that…)

 

Once again this week at Michigan the track record was broken and a new one established. Kevin Harvick was the one that established the new track record and he sits on the pole for Sunday afternoon’s race. Of all the drivers and teams in Sprint cup this year, Kevin Harvick and is #4 Stewart/Haas team have shown up almost every week and unloaded off the truck as the ones to beat. As we all know, they haven’t been the ones to beat every week and have had their problems but there’s no denying that they’ve been impressive and when it comes time for the Chase they should be contenders for the championship as well. I reckon I should also mention that they just might be the ones to beat this weekend, too.

 

The Penske Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have shown a bit of strength also this year especially during the qualifying times. Even last weekend it looked as though Keselowski was going to win except for that pesky bit of trash blocking the airflow to his radiator on the front of his car. Since he was running very hot and didn’t think his car was going to make it to the end he made the decision to try something to remove the debris that didn’t work. He lost his momentum and was passed by Dale Jr. who ended up winning the race, but that’s old news. Even Logano was looking strong last weekend except for blowing his engine near the end of the race. Engine life could be a problem for any of the teams this weekend.

 

From this fan’s view, if the Fords do mount a charge to win Sunday afternoon, it could very likely be from the Penske Fords or even the Roush Fords. Everyone knows that Greg Biffle usually runs good at MIS and Carl Edwards has also been known to do so. Even though this fan doesn’t think either one of those two will win, I can’t rule out that possibility for either one of them.

 

That brings us back to the Hendrick teams. Of the four Hendrick teams, Kasey Kahne has probably had the worst luck of all of them. It’s not so much that he hasn’t had the speed of the rest or that he hasn’t had the handling, it’s more that he’s been in the right place at the wrong time (or as some would say, the wrong place at the right time.) It is kind of interesting that of the four Hendrick teams three of them are performing extremely well and Kahne’s team is struggling every week. I’m not saying that all of it’s been his fault either because he’s had a lot of help.

 

I don’t really want to make a prediction and that’s not my intent here, but, any one of the four Hendrick teams could end up in Victory Lane Sunday afternoon when all is said and done. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Junior, in particular, are my strongest picks and in that order but Kasey Kahne could also be the one. (Some might even say he’s due to win, or maybe even, it’s about time he won.)

 

As is always the case in NASCAR, I can never rule out the performance of the Joe Gibbs Toyotas even though I don’t think they’re displaying that much speed this weekend. You can never rule out Matt Kenseth from being at or near the front at the end of a race and the same goes for Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Even though they haven’t shown themselves to be that impressive this weekend, (at least from this fan’s view), it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise to this fan to see one of the three of them in Victory Lane at the end of the Quicken Loans 400.

 

As is usually the case in NASCAR racing these days, track position will definitely be key to taking the victory this weekend. There will be little room for mistakes and errors whether it be on the track or in the pits and I definitely think strategy will play a big part especially near the end of the race. There is one other thing that could rear its head Sunday afternoon and play a big part in who wins and that could be fuel strategy. (Gosh I hope not, but it could…)

 

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 14, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Pocono Could Make It or Break It for Someone


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There is one thing that is definite for the race Sunday afternoon at Pocono… Someone will win the Pocono 400. Just which one that will be is unknown at the time of this writing but someone will definitely either win their first Cup race of the 2014 season or add to their list of races won this year. Now, that might sound like I’m stating the obvious but it’s true someone is going to win Sunday afternoon and it could be someone that’s already won this year or someone that hasn’t.

 

Kevin Harvick has once again shown up to the track with a very fast race car. It may be too soon to call him as the winner but he does need to be mentioned as at least one of the ones to most likely end up in Victory Lane by the end of the race on Sunday afternoon. And while we’re at it, he’s probably been one of the ones that’s shown up almost every week with a chance to win. Most of his problems have been in the pits and, often this year, he’s been in position to win a race even though he’s only won two so far.

 

I’m trying to be objective about this but, as I have mentioned before in earlier articles, Hendrick horsepower has been tough to beat this year. When you consider all the winners on the year so far, Hendrick horsepower has been under the hood a lot of the time. Sure, I know we’ve only gotten to the halfway point in the season but, I do have to admit there’s been more talk about Hendrick horsepower than there has about any other power plant under the hoods of the Cup cars. Usually, at least from this fan’s view as I  observe things like this, this kind of dominance only lasts for a short while in a season and I do expect the Toyotas and the Fords to begin catching up soon. (And I bet they hope so, too.)

 

Denny Hamlin hopes to be the one to make a statement for the Toyota teams on Sunday afternoon and he did win the pole. In this fan’s opinion even though he did win the pole, that doesn’t mean he’s going to win and even he complained this weekend that they are lacking speed. Whether or not that means they’re down in horsepower or they just haven’t got the balance on the cars right yet remains to be seen. Two things are obvious about it, he is starting on the pole and he does have a chance at ending up in Victory Lane not only because of where he’s starting but also because of the fact that he and his FedEx #11 Toyota have been the ones to beat at Pocono before.

 

No matter how you look at it, Jimmie Johnson is still a threat to win the Pocono and a threat to win his third race in a row for the 2014 season. Even though there are times that it appears they are struggling either in practice or qualifying, usually they end up solving their problems before race day and end up at or near the front. For this one, Jimmie didn’t qualify well but he put the blame totally on his own shoulders and said he just blew the lap, in particular in turn two.

 

Dale Jr. is another Hendrick powered Chevy that ran really strong during the practice sessions and in particular during the final one. His crew chief, Steve Letarte, has had success at the Pocono track in the past and it could be that Dale Jr. will win his second race of the 2014 season. I’m sure that would make his crew chief and him very happy, not to mention all of Jr. Nation.

 

From this fan’s view, some honorable mentions for ending up in victory Lane would be Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. We all know that Tony is hungry for a victory and quite ready to turn the corner on his recuperation from his accident in his sprint car last year. Kurt Busch is also looking to turn things around for his team even though he has a win this year. His brother Kyle is just looking to finish a day without too many problems that have ended in poor finishes. When it comes to Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, well… it seems they qualify well week in and week out but they haven’t always run that well at least not until the end of a race. From this fan’s view, this could be the week for either of them also.

 

Even though Matt Kenseth took over the points lead from Jeff Gordon last week, it remains to be seen whether or not he will perform well at the Pocono track. From my view it could go either way. I’m not saying he will and I’m not saying he won’t, but I am saying if anyone would surprise me by winning Sunday afternoon it would be Matt Kenseth.

 

Well, so far it looks like I’ve had very little trouble at all mentioning possible winners that already have a win or two under their belts this year even though I may have missed one or two. I can think of two right up front that I should mention because it does appear that either Clint Bowyer or Brian Vickers could end up in Victory Lane for Michael Waltrip Racing. Of the two, this fan thinks it’s more likely that it will be Brian Vickers than Clint Boyer but I wouldn’t be that surprised at either one of them winning.

 

Pocono is a tough track and in particular it is tough on equipment. Since it appears that many will be shifting several times each lap there is always a chance that the transmissions could give trouble or that they could miss a shift and damage their power plants. The speeds are higher than they’ve ever been at Pocono and just about everyone broke the old track record this weekend. That could be a bad thing for some and not so bad thing for others

 

That’s just one of several reasons I chose the title I did for this article because I really believe that some are going to “make it” to the end while others “break it” before they get there. Oh, and by the way, with all of this extra speed going on, do you think it’s possible there could be tire problems once again this weekend…?

 

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© June 8 2014 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

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

Who’ll Be The Monster Tamer


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IMG_0131The one-mile high banked oval track at Dover is called the Monster Mile and it came by that nickname honestly. Even though The Monster Mile is a one-mile oval, it seems that the drivers spend most of their time in the turns. The speeds are high and the G forces on the drivers are high, especially as they traverse those high banked turns and the wear and tear on drivers and equipment throughout the day often determines who wins the race. All of the above can contribute to the overall outcome and in particular, can often determine the emotional state of the drivers when the race is over.

 

Over the years of racing at the Monster Mile there have been many “Monster Tamers” and some of them have been better at it than many of the others. Jimmie Johnson comes to mind as one of those and he has a very high winning average when it comes to the Monster Mile at Dover. There’s no reason to go into a long-winded discussion of his winning statistics at this track but I do think that it needs to at least be mentioned that he’s probably one of the drivers to beat Sunday afternoon. He’s not the only one and I’m not saying he’s going to win; but there is a good chance that he will be at or near the front when it comes down to those final few laps.

 

Even though Jimmie Johnson should be high on the shortlist of who might win Sunday afternoon, there are several others that intend (at least hopefully) to make sure that he doesn’t get another victory to add to his many others at this track. Among those would be Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Kevin Harvick. Now that’s a pretty strong shortlist of possible winners and there are several others that could be added to it and probably should be. In fact it’s awfully hard to discount Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth or Clint Bowyer from that list and any one of those three could walk away with the victory.

 

From this fan’s view, this could be one of the most tightly contested races in recent times at the Dover track. Not only are there drivers that have proven their ability to tame the Monster but the cars are running faster than ever on this track and the lap times are very close together also. I’m not willing to say that someone may not walk away with it because there are a couple that are running very strong according to the practice and qualifying sessions.

 

Of course anyone who’s been paying even the slightest bit of attention this weekend would recognize that I’m talking about Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Either one of them could win and of the two, Kyle might be the more likely candidate. It doesn’t always follow that just because he does win in the Truck Series that he will win everything else he competes in on the weekend but, he does run well at the Monster. Having said that, it does still appear that the Joe Gibbs Toyotas have been struggling a bit so far this season. I’m sure that’s because they’re trying different things (or at least that’s what they would like us to believe) that will hopefully help them when they get to The Chase.

 

There are a couple of noticeable things going on as well in the practice sessions in particular and that may make for the possibility of someone completely unexpected winning Sunday afternoon’s race. Is it possible that this could be the weekend that Marcos Ambrose wins? In the later two practice sessions, he was much improved over his qualifying efforts. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he will win but he could be the one to end up in victory Lane when all is said and done.

 

There are a lot of things to take into account for winning the race on Sunday afternoon and it seems that it always comes down to these few things. First of all, at least from this fan’s view, track position is going to be more important than anything else all day long. With the speeds being as close as they are it is hard to imagine someone not having a very good chance at winning if they’ve been running at or near the front all day long. That brings us to the second important item which would be pit stops. The pit crews always have a lot of pressure on them these days but this Sunday afternoon is definitely going to be as pressure packed as any.

 

I really hate to bring up this third thing and I don’t really have any grounds for feeling or thinking the way I do but I’m concerned about the tires once again. With the speeds being is high as they are and the new track record this year at Dover, I just can’t shake the thought that tires might become an issue at some point in the race. I’m not blaming Goodyear nor am I saying that they’re not doing a good job, but I am saying that this year has been a new learning curve for them when it comes to these cars with the increased downforce and the stresses that it puts on the four items that hook up all of that horsepower to the track which is the tires. There may not be any failures but the possibility does have to be considered.

 

Of all the races at the Monster Mile in my recent memory, this is one of the ones that is difficult to choose a winner of before the race is run. Sure, I know there are a lot of names out there, well-known names, of possible choices for the winner but it just isn’t easy to pick one with so many possibilities available. In this fan’s opinion it’s going to come down to which one has the best tires if there is a late race caution and from my view that makes this one a real toss of the dice and hard to call…

 

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 31, 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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Memorial Day is a day we remember the men and women that made the supreme sacrifice while serving in active military service. It is celebrated in several ways by people across the United States but probably two of the best known ways are the Indianapolis 500 in Indiana and the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Of course there are those that don’t even think these two items have anything at all to do with Memorial Day and remembering our fallen military heroes and they may have a point; but it is a day that both places take time to remember and honor them and that is a good thing.

 

For Kurt Busch, this Memorial Day will be quite possibly “The Longest Day.” He intends to run in both the Indianapolis 500 and in the Coca-Cola 600 and that means if he runs every mile in both races he will have driven 1100 miles before the day is done. I don’t know about you but from this fan’s you that’s covering a lot of miles in a very short period of time.

 

Danica Patrick has been drawing attention to herself lately for her performance on the track at Kansas and her performance in qualifying at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. I’m not saying she’s going to win the race on Sunday afternoon and evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it is good to see her showing some improvement in areas. Constant, steady improvement is what she’s been showing but I don’t think anyone expects her to run off a string of victories anytime soon.

 

Dale Junior is looking to put many years of frustration behind him at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend and would like nothing better than to beat his teammate, Jimmy Johnson, and take his first cup victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Honestly, from this fan’s view it is awfully hard to believe that Dale Junior has never won at CMS in the cup series. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that barring any unforeseen circumstances Dale Junior will make a good showing Sunday evening when it comes down to the last laps.

 

Jeff Gordon is another one that hasn’t really had all that good of luck at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Even though it is the place that he had his first Sprint Cup Victory, if my recollection is correct, he hasn’t won there since 1998. If anyone is due to win again at CMS in this fan’s opinion it would be Jeff Gordon.

 

Jeff has been having a stellar year even though he has had some bad finishes. It’s been a good season so far with mostly top fives and top tens. It has been interesting to say the least, to see him not only get a victory but also sitting in the top spot of the points for The Chase this year. Until he had a victory it was almost imperative that he stay on top of the points if he wanted to make the Chase.

 

Fortunately for him (and his fans) Jeff is a force to be reckoned with this year and a very strong contender for winning the Cup Championship as well as possibly making this the year he takes his fifth. Of course I do have to mention that he has a lot of work to do with his 27th starting position in the Coca Cola 600.

 

This fan also finds it interesting how much talk has been going around about how long it’s been since Jimmie Johnson won his last race. Sometimes, it just becomes completely wearying to listen to people go on and on about how long it’s been since somebody won a race. In Jimmie Johnson’s case, he may silence all those voices this weekend since he is starting on the pole. I guess it just remains to be seen if he will be at the front when the end of the race comes around and the checkered flag drops.

 

Kevin Harvick is one that might make it difficult for Jimmy Johnson to come home with the trophy this weekend. There is no doubt that Kevin Harvick likes Hendrick horse power and his new place of employment at Stewart/Haas racing. He is another that is been having a stellar year so far in 2014 and I expect he will be a contender for the Cup Championship also. It still remains to be seen if after traveling 600 miles he can take home his third Coca-Cola 600.

 

In fact, I’m sure you’ve noticed that much of the talk this week has been about the strength of the Hendrick power plants. They have definitely been a force to be dealt with almost on a weekly basis in this 2014 season. I really don’t expect that to change much this weekend but I do have to admit the Fords and the Toyotas have also been showing a little bit more muscle especially from the Michael Waltrip camp and Clint Bowyer.

 

I guess this is the place where I should mention the Joe Gibbs camp also. Kyle Busch has a very good chance of ending up In Victory Lane, Sunday evening and possibly even Matt Kenseth.

 

The Coca-Cola 600 is a long race. That extra 100 miles does seem to add to the fatigue from a rigorous race such as the Coca-Cola 600. As for which of the forty three drivers will end up in Victory Lane… that’s a good question and not one I’m ready to answer at this very moment even though I do have a few favorite choices. I think it’s pretty obvious that those that have shown strength so far this year will show that strength once again Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It could be that we all get to witness history being made as a driver might win the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, but then again… well … probably not…

 

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 24, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Sprint All Star Race At Charlotte


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Tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is all about the All Stars. No… wait a minute, that’s not quite true… It’s all about the money. It’s not about the points (because there are none), it’s not about who runs second or worse (because in the end it won’t matter) and it’s not about catching a break.

 

Oh, I know that doesn’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with the All Star race and everyone knows it can get pretty aggressive but, it does make for an interesting night of racing and can get a little rough at times. I guess that is what we as fans should expect when the only thing on the line is winning over a million bucks and how you do it is limited only by how – uh, how shall I put this? – “nice” you may be when it comes to moving someone out of the way that might keep you from it.

 

I guess the next question would be whether or not it’s a race that’s all about having fun or not? There are those that say that it is all about fun and then there are others that say is definitely all about the money! I don’t know which side of the fence I come down on because it does look like they have a lot of fun but racing for $1 million… Well, that does seem like there might be a bit more involved than just fun.

 

From this fan’s view (along with many others) the Sprint All-Star race is unique to itself and highly unpredictable as to how it might progress. Just because you’re an All-Star doesn’t mean you’re going to win the All-Star race and usually, the winner is a surprise even though any of them can win on this night. It is highly likely that tonight’s winner could be someone that hasn’t won this year, like Jimmy Johnson. Two things could possibly be in his favor for winning and the first would be how well he performs at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The second would be he’s going for his third in a row and that isn’t likely although possible.

 

Personally, I’m not sure that the winner will be that obvious until at least halfway through the competition tonight. It could be Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards or any number of the others. I’m not even sure that it will be Hendrick horsepower that leads the way even though they have been showing strength throughout this 2014 season. There are just too many variables and one of them is the aggressiveness of the drivers. Some would say that aggression, or aggressive driving, will rule the night and that could very possibly be true. It could also spell trouble for any of the possible winners if they don’t keep their heads on straight.

 

Both Clint Bowyer and AJ Allmendinger had a little extra practice last night as they finished one -two in the All-Star Showdown. Is it possible that Clint Boyer’s #15 team could begin this weekend to turn things around? In listening to Clint talk about his season so far, it’s been very disappointing for him and his team. It’s not that they haven’t had good cars but it is because they just haven’t been able to finish the way that they qualified or run so far this year. It is this fan’s opinion that tonight could be different for him but I’m not willing to say he’s going to win tonight.

 

AJ Allmendinger and his #47 team would like nothing less than to finish out front at the end of tonight’s race. It wouldn’t be just about the money for him although it would be somewhat about the money. What it could mean if they do win is that they have a possibility of winning the 600 next weekend and that would be very good for the #47 team. Judging from seasons past I’m sure the driver, crew and owners of the #47 team could use that boost in their confidence level.

 

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t talked about the Fords very much so far and there’s a reason for that. Although I could be quite surprised by tonight’s outcome and they might actually finish up front, I’m of the opinion they’re just not quite there yet. Does that mean there is no hope for the Fords at all? Not at all… What it means is most of the Fords just haven’t been as impressive as the Hendrick Chevys whether actual or associated teams, and Hendrick horsepower has ruled lately. Of course now that I’ve said that, this could be the night that any of the Fords or the Toyotas could outshine the Chevys whether it be Hendrick or Earnhardt-Childress horsepower. From this fan’s view, when it comes right down to it this could be another one of the most exciting races we’ve seen this year in Sprint cup much like last week was at Kansas.

 

Since the qualifying won’t take place until just before the race tonight it’s hard to tell what the starting order might be. I do think track position will play a big part in how tonight’s race may go but you have to remember that they’re only running in 20 lap segments until the last 10 laps. I expect this race to be flat out and aggressive, especially near the end. Whether it be a Ford, a Toyota or a Chevy that ends up in Victory Lane, it won’t matter much who finishes second because tonight is definitely, “All about the money… !!”

 

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 17, 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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