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