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

Looking For Magic at the Magic Mile In Chase Race #2

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

Many drivers will be looking for magic at the Magic Mile at Loudon. Brad Keselowski is still enjoying his momentum from the last two races and walked away with a new track record and the pole for the Sylvania 300 on Sunday afternoon. Much of the talk centers around how unbeatable he appears to be. Some are even saying he is a shew in for the Cup Championship when the NASCAR Cup teams hit Homestead in November.

Well… All of that may be true but, from this fan’s view, there is a whole lot of racing left before we get there and one can only hope someone (or several someones) will step up to the plate and make a competition of it.

There is hope, however. It’s true that Brad Keselowski has won two consecutive poles and two consecutive races, at both Richmond and Chicago. It is also true that Jeff Gordon has finished second in both of those races. Could it be that the #24 Hendrick team is just running a little more conservative than the #2 Penske team is or are they both showing all they have? I don’t really have a good answer for that but it is possible that neither one is showing their full hand at this point. In fact, it is possible that there is more to the story than first meets the eye.

Of the two teams I just mentioned, both of them have been running very good at most every racetrack they’ve competed on and both have had their problems off and on as the season has progressed. If things continue as they have, there may be four teams that run head to head for the Championship at Homestead but the two to beat just might be Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a statement but it is a thought to ponder during the weeks leading up to Homestead. Since this is only the second race of the Chase, it may be a just a little early to be speculating in that way but it is a definite possibility.

Of course I do have to face the possibility that my speculation could be proven completely wrong over the next several weeks. That is the nice thing about a fan’s speculation, though. If I am wrong, I can always re-evaluate and it won’t affect those teams in any way. If the crew chief or engineers speculate and they are proven wrong, well… we don’t even need to go there because you know what I’m saying.

What makes the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase so interesting and so hard to speculate on is the way it works. In most (if not all) other sports, as the competition is eliminated the remaining teams only compete against themselves and there are no others on the field. In NASCAR however, there are still 43 teams on the field and any one of them can win a race or cause problems for any of the ones left in the actual competition for the Championship.

True, the actual competitors for the Championship only compete points-wise against those still able to win the Championship but, they all still have to contend with the whole field on raceday. That is at least one of the things that makes this elimination format so interesting compared to other sports. We just won’t really know who wins until the checkered flag drops at the end of the race at Homestead in November.

Since this is automobile racing, others being on the track during the competition isn’t the only potential problem any of the contending teams have to face. There are possible mechanical failures in any number of areas of the car’s parts that can potentially ruin anyone’s chances for competing all the way to the final race in Homestead. Whether it be tire failures, engine failures or anything in between, these are things usually out of the control of the drivers and the crews and can’t be foreseen.

So far this weekend there have been a few surprises but race day could hold any number of them for all of us. Brad Keselowski starts on the pole and Jamie McMurray starts out side pole. Could it be that this is a weekend where someone other than one of the 16 Chasers wins? Could it be when one of the ones struggling to get enough points to move on to the next segment wins and removes any doubt as to whether or not they make to segment 2? Will one of the major contenders have problems and put themselves in trouble for moving on to the next segment? It starts to get a little complicated and from this fan’s view it is hard to say what the standings will look like after the Magic Mile is done.

The Sylvania 300 is a short race on basically a one mile oval flat track and it’s a place that several have shined in the past. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Bush come to mind as possible winners along with Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Dale Jr. Since it is relatively a short race, it doesn’t leave much room for errors from the drivers or the crews. This fan wonders if there might be tire problems as have happened in the recent past and whether or not the crew chiefs will head the advice of Goodyear and run the suggested minimum tire pressures or press the envelope and hope for the best.

Whatever happens on this Sunday afternoon, for some it could be disaster and for others absolute magic. I reckon it just depends on which ones find the magic and which ones experience the disaster…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 20, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by PodCastNorm Productions

The Chase Begins At Chicago…

Published September 13, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

And so the Chase begins… except it’s different this year. Now it is the Elimination Chase. For those that aren’t quite up to speed on the new Chase format yet, four cars are eliminated every three races, leaving four cars to compete, head-to-head, at the final race at Homestead. So, it’s not really ten races for all 16 competitors all the way to the end at Homestead but it is three races to win or gain better points to advance to the next segment of three races. In the end it’s supposed to make for a much more exciting and dramatic end to the year and the final race that will declare the Cup champion.

In this fan’s opinion, I think it will do that but I still think the cream will rise to the top and it won’t be that big of a surprise which ones end up going for the trophy on the final weekend at Homestead. Of course there are more than 16 strong cars in the mix even though all of them didn’t qualify for the Chase. All of those in the Chase will have to compete against all of the Chase qualifiers as well as all the rest of the 43 car field every week. For some that could spell trouble and for others, well… it could mean the difference between advancing or not.

Even this weekend will be a little different because of qualifying being rained out. With that happening the pit selections won’t be according to the usual fashion but according to the first practice session. I really hate to state the obvious but, when it comes to maintaining track position during the race, pit stall location can make a world of difference. Even a better car may not be able to beat those with better spots out of the pits when the faster car has a less than desirable pit selection. When it comes down to the end of the race, a lot can be decided in the pits and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which team it might benefit) the race can be won or lost on the final pit stop.

So let’s talk a little about what’s going on at the Chicago track for the Cup teams this weekend. First off, it will be a bit cooler this weekend than it was last weekend at Richmond. Fall is definitely in the air and, even though it won’t be cold for the race, it has been different for all three practice session if compared to what is expected for Sunday afternoon.

Add to that the fact Goodyear brought a different tire for the teams to use this weekend and, although it may not amount to much in the end, it has brought a little more challenge to the crew chiefs for the weekend. The drivers have a little different feel for the track and it has required them to adjust to something that may not feel as good to them as they would like.

Another thing several have mentioned as challenges for this weekend are the rough areas of the track. It has been an interesting to watch them try to adjust to the different tire combination and the rough spots on the track. No doubt it has been a struggle for some but then that is why we as fans know that’s why they get paid the big bucks.

Just as a side note, it has also become relatively obvious that this is the first weekend some of the sixteen have felt pressure to perform in a while. If you listen to some, they’ve almost admitted that once they had the one win to make it into the Chase, they haven’t been as stressed week in and week out.

Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying they haven’t been working hard or haven’t been trying to win. They just haven’t felt the stress they would have normally have felt if it wasn’t for the “win and you’re in” part. If they won early, they were in the Chase and didn’t have to worry that much about performance. Now that the Chase has begun, the pressure is once again on to perform week-to-week just so they can advance to the next segment of three races. From this fan’s view, that adds a whole new dimension to the racing for at least the next nine races simply because of the new Chase format.

Okay, I’m going to do something this week I don’t particularly like to make a habit of doing. In fact, I don’t really do it very often at all anymore. I’d like to make a statement right now before the first race of the Chase begins and make my, uh, “suggestion” as to which of the 16 drivers will be the four that square off head-to-head at Homestead in November.

Let me say right up front, I have no idea how things will turn out but I do have an opinion, at least here at the beginning of the Chase, of the drivers I think will do what they’ve been doing all year. “What would that be,” you ask? Winning, of course and I expect them to continue doing that and consistently finishing in at least the top ten.

Okay, are you ready? (Understand I will quite likely have to re-evaluate, but at least I’m willing to put it down right here, right now at this moment. Also understand there are a few toss ups in my mind but I’m only choosing four for now.) I think the final four at Homestead will be Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon.

Well, that’s it for now…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 13, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s One and Done At Richmond

Published September 6, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Two things are certain for tonight’s race at Richmond. There won’t be anybody holding back that has a chance to make it into the Chase with a win and there won’t be anyone that’s already in holding back either – they’ve got nothing to lose. Those that are already in by wins will be looking to gain the bonus points and improve their starting spot for the Chase. For those that aren’t in? Well… let’s just say they’ve got nothing to lose either and, if they do win, they’re in! It will definitely be one and done at Richmond for them…

A lot is riding on the race tonight, particularly for those that don’t have a chance unless they win. Three spots remain and, if there isn’t a first time winner for the 2014 season tonight, those three spots will be decided by points. That means those that are already in by points can’t afford to have a bad race, like say, Clint Bowyer did last weekend. Few thought his 31 point cushion would be depleted so quickly but Atlanta quickly eroded his almost sure spot in the Chase to an almost have to win to get in at Richmond.

Once again this weekend tires have been an issue. Not because of tire failures but because Goodyear brought a different tire than was used earlier in the season. Many teams have found it a challenge to get a handle on this one and it has made for an interesting time in preparing cars for the race tonight. That doesn’t mean they haven’t figured them out but it does mean there are some unknowns for tonight’s race. I don’t think anyone will really know what they have until the sun goes down.

Another thing that has been happening lately is the amount of trouble some of the teams have had making it through the tech inspection before qualifying and race time. The biggest problem this week was the amount of rear caster allowed by NASCAR and an apparent difference between the way the teams measure it and the way the machine sees it at inspection time. It may mean nothing but it has been a problem at more than one track lately. Those that had trouble meeting the proper tolerance may struggle a bit tonight or… maybe not.

Brad Keselowski won another pole and the two Penske teams have been on the front row a lot this season. That doesn’t always translate into a good race performance but it does say they have an advantage when it comes to qualifying. In this fan’s view, qualifying doesn’t say much about how the race will go but it usually means a better choice in pit locations which usually gives certain advantages to the better qualifiers. Whether or not that means anything for Keselowski in tonight’s race remains to be seen but it very well could.

Kevin Harvick was the fastest in practice when it came to running consistent multiple lap times. Since he is starting in the fourth position, it could mean he could have another dominating performance such as the one in Atlanta (even though he didn’t win.) Whatever the case for Harvick, he looks like he and his team are well prepared for moving into the new Chase elimination scenario. This fan expects he will one of the ones to beat for the Championship when it comes to Homestead.

From this fan’s view, it is likely that the cream will once again rise to the top and those that have struggled will continue to struggle. That could mean that a previous winner will take the trip to Victory Lane tonight and some that had hopes of making the Chase will find those hopes dashed by the end of the Federated Auto Parts 400.

Whatever happens tonight, once again NASCAR has proved they know what they are doing when it comes to making the sport we all love more interesting and exciting for us fans. There were times this year that this fan wondered about that but, once again, The sanctioning body has proven they do have the best interests of the fans and the sport in mind when they make changes. I have to admit, when they changed the qualifying format to what it is now, I was skeptical.

NASCAR was not opposed to making tweaks to make it work even better and, as it stands right now, I think it is one of the best moves they could’ve made. Qualifying is more exciting than ever and with the emphasis on winning they instituted this year, the racing is as intense as it has ever been. As a long time fan and former racer, I applaud NASCAR for the job they do and have done.

When it comes to this final race before the Chase, there are a lot of unknowns. This could prove to be one of the most dramatic and competitive races we’ve seen in a while. There is a lot riding on performance and who will the last three to make it into the Chase. I expect there will be a lot of different strategies and some of them are probably going to be questioned at the time they happen. What will be interesting (at least to this fan) is to see how those strategies play out throughout the night. Frankly, I would want to be a crew chief tonight…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 6, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s Atlanta And Two To Go To Make the Chase

Published August 31, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Anyone that doesn’t have enough points but wants to make it into the Chase only has two chances left. Atlanta and Richmond are the only two places left for non winners to take a win and make it into the Chase. Of course, there are still four spots left but two of them will make it in with points. That means Atlanta will definitely be a place where some will take more risks to try and steal a spot in the Chase and that has the potential to make this weekend even more dramatic and competitive that it would be normally.

Another thing that makes this weekend noticeably more dramatic is that Tony Stewart is returning to the #14 Stewart/Haas Chevy this weekend. For some, that is something they did not want to see (for whatever their reasons were) but for the rest of us, it is a good thing. He needs to be back in his car and competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. After the terrible accident several weeks ago that took the life of a fellow competitor, this fan thinks this is the best thing for him to help him heal both mentally and spiritually. As he said in his public appearance and statement Friday, it was something that has changed his life forever and will always be with him.

This weekend in Atlanta is one of only two more chances he has to make it into the 2014 Chase. Without a win he will not make it in because he does not have enough points otherwise. That makes the next two races even more important for him and his #14 team and he will be looking to win one or both of them (which he is more than capable of doing.) Whatever happens in the next two weeks, this fan wants nothing but the best for all concerned.

Atlanta is an old track even though it was reconfigured years ago and it remains as one of the most challenging tracks on the Cup circuit. It is fast and is tough on equipment and tires and two things stand out to this fan as possible “challenges” for the competitors this weekend. The first is just how fast the speeds fall off with the tires and the other is the possibility of engine failure.

Along with the speeds falling off because of tire wear, this fan is at least a little concerned about possible tire failures. With the speeds they are running and the down force being generated by the cars this year, it is possible the ugly beast of tire failures could rear its ugly head again this weekend. Even though it hasn’t happened yet this weekend, it is probably still in the back of the drivers and crew chiefs minds. Fortunately, at least from this fan’s view, they are running at night and that could make all the difference.

This won’t be new news to anyone but this weekend marks another milestone in the career of Jeff Gordon. Atlanta will be his 750th start in a row and is where he started his first Cup race 20 years ago. Considering he is a four time Cup Champion and having a great run at his fifth, there is no doubt he is having, and has had, a great career and many expect it to continue for a while yet. This fan is one of those.

Is it possible Jeff Gordon can get win #92 this weekend and carry even more momentum into the Chase? Without a doubt he is one among several that can win not only Atlanta but Richmond and beyond. Barring the unforeseen (like last weekend at Bristol) and things happening to him that are out of his control, I like his chances for finishing in the top five at Atlanta and possibly taking the win and solidifying his #1 spot in the Chase. Judging from the way he has been running this year, it may a bit of a stretch but not unimaginable he could finish the season this year with his fifth Cup Championship and 95 wins, maybe more.

When it comes to Labor Day weekend and the Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, there are many things to consider. Take for example, Matt Kenseth and his #20 Toyota. It does appear the Toyotas have shown up with some speed this weekend and Matt Kenseth did have one of the fastest trips around the little over 1.5 mile oval. It could mean he might get his first win for the 2014 season and lock himself into the Chase with the win. Unless complete disaster strikes over the next two weeks, he is locked in by points. I suppose total disaster could strike just looking at how things have gone for his teammate Kyle Bush but it’s not likely. What is more likely is him taking a trip to Victory Lane at least once over the next two weeks.

The Fords have once again shown up with speed and one of them could end up in Victory Lane when the checkered flag drops at the end of the 500 miles tonight. Both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have shown their Fords can get around the track with enough speed to get there and so did Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. From this fan’s view, it will take more than a fast lap or two to make that trip to Victory Lane a reality tonight. It will take consistently traversing the 1.5 mile oval at Atlanta with the best lap times. Unfortunately for the Fords and Toyotas, (at least in this fan’s opinion), the ones that displayed that were the Hendrick powered machines of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon and this fan thinks one of them will end up taking home the trophy tonight… The question is, which one…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© August 30, 2014 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

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

It’s Crunch Time For Some Under The Lights At Bristol

Published August 23, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Like it or not, there are four spots left to be filled for The Chase and only three weeks of racing left before The Chase actually starts. It is possible that any one of those places, or all four of those places, could be filled by non-winners. It is also possible that all but one of them could be filled by three new winners in the 2014 season. Since there are 16 available places and 12 different winners so far on the year, the four remaining spots remain to be filled and that means it’s crunch time when the cup teams hit the track this Saturday night under the lights at Bristol.

Unless disaster completely strikes his team, Matt Kenseth will likely get in by points even if he doesn’t win a race. The problem is that he hasn’t had very good finishes lately and he’s lost some of his points cushion. If he wins this race, he’s in simply because of the win and not because of his points position. The way things have been going for him and his team lately, I think he would rather win so that he doesn’t have to worry about it for the next two weeks after Bristol, (but that’s just this fan’s opinion.)

Greg Biffle is probably the one sweating the most bullets because, winning aside, his chances are a bit precarious at this point. Since the Roush Fords haven’t been performing all that well lately, he would like to have a win just to lock himself in. As it is right now, him having a spot in The Chase is by no means guaranteed. With a win at Bristol, his situation would change completely.

The real drama in the qualifying for The Chase situation comes from the fact that even though there are 16 qualifiers right now (12 of them winners, four of them not) and if someone outside of those listed in the top 16 wins, even though some may have a point advantage over them, the win overrides the points when it comes to qualifying for The Chase. That’s just another reason why it’s crunch time for many that haven’t any wins yet this year. Even though there are only four spots remaining, the possibilities are mind-boggling at the least…

Once again this weekend it appears the Toyotas are struggling a bit. Even though they say their biggest problem is that they’re missing horsepower, from this fan’s view it appears they’re missing a few other things also. In this fan’s opinion they’re still a little bit behind the eight ball in several areas. Only one of those would be speed or the lack thereof. There just doesn’t seem to be that consistency they’ve had in the past. Maybe the easiest thing to say is it appears that they’re “struggling” at the moment.

Now that I’ve said some negative things about the Toyotas, especially in the JGR camp, it isn’t a good thing to count Kyle Busch out for winning the race this weekend or Denny Hamlin for that matter. Either one of them could surprise us and, even though it appears they just don’t have the horses under the hood, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that either one of them could end up in Victory Lane. There is a great possibility Matt Kenseth could do the same, also.

Though Clint Boyer has been struggling a bit this year, he and his team have been working hard and making progress and it shows in their finishes lately. If I were going to name someone that would be my biggest surprise as far as winning this race it would be a tossup between Clint Boyer or Marcos Ambrose.

I think I just detected an audible gasp out there when I mentioned the name Marcos Ambrose. I can understand that, but it is true, Marcos Ambrose could win the Bristol night race. In fact I would go so far as to say, other than a road course win, this race at Bristol is probably one of his better chances to win on an oval track. I know we all think of him as being a road course specialist and he proves that every year but, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities to think that he could take his first victory in Sprint cup on an oval right here at Bristol.

When it comes to Saturday night at Bristol it is this fan’s opinion that Ryan Newman probably needs the victory worse than any of the others I mentioned. He has been struggling throughout the year so far but in actuality his performance hasn’t been that bad. Winning at Bristol, or at either of the other tracks in the coming two weeks, would be a great boost to him and his team, (and that includes the boost it would give to his boss, Richard Childress.)

Just a couple of quick thoughts before I close this out. It is quite likely that the fastest line around the track will continue to be up near the wall. That means that is going to be hard to pass. It doesn’t mean there won’t be any passing going on, it just means with the fastest groove being near the top close to the wall, there’s really not a good place for passing to take place. Well… That is unless you consider the passing that can take place in the pits. Yessir, this race could possibly be won, or lost, by the actions of the pit crews and the things that happen in the pits…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 23, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s All About Pure Speed for the Pure Michigan 400

Published August 16, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

If you listened to the Ford drivers coming into this weekend you would’ve heard some of them say that they had found speed – and not just a little bit of it. True to their word, they came into this weekend showing a bit more speed than they did the last visit to MIS. Perhaps what they didn’t count on was the fact that the Chevys also found more speed and even though the Fords are faster, so are the Chevys. What that means going into this weekend is a bit unknown at this point to this fan but, it could mean that once again the Chevys will come out on top over the Fords.

The Toyotas are either sandbagging until they get to The Chase or they just don’t have the horsepower under the hood yet. It seems to be the biggest complaint coming out of the Toyota camp. Several of the Toyota drivers have been heard to say that they just need more horsepower so they can keep up or pass those with Hendrick horsepower under the hood. So far, it appears their search for more horsepower goes on.

It’s definitely all about pure speed this weekend at the Michigan International Speedway for the pure Michigan 400 and that’s what it will take to win. In fact, just in case you weren’t paying attention during the practice sessions and the qualifying session, the track record was broken by about 32 of the 43 cars that qualified for this race and Jeff Gordon set the new track record for the Michigan International Speedway. No matter what others might say, at least 32 of the teams are going faster than the last or previous track record setter and if that ain’t pure speed, this fan doesn’t know what is…

The race on Sunday afternoon at MIS could be interesting and yet boring at the same time, (well, at least from this fan’s view.) I know that sounds like a strange thing to say but it’s true. One thing about the Cup races at MIS is that they have a tendency to be a bit boring at least until they get near the end. The reason that this fan would say something like that is because the speeds may be high but the racing isn’t always that interesting.

Often, this race is about consistent lap times, gaining spots while in the pits along with the fuel and tire strategies that go along with those stops. It appears the tires that Goodyear brought to MIS don’t give up that much and actually run faster speeds after a few laps than they do when they put them on as stickers. It appears they need a lap or two to begin bringing out the best they have to offer.

Although it remains to be seen how all of the different engines will hold up to the demands of this track, it is possible there could be some engine failures before this one is over simply because the engines don’t get much time to rest. They run lap after lap at almost full throttle and the RPMs hardly ever drop that much.

Unfortunately, because there is a tendency for two things to happen during the race this is not one of this fan’s favorite races. The first thing about this race is that, though they can and do use the draft, the racing can become a bit boring simply because no one can pass with regularity. Now that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any passing. What it does mean is that the faster cars will be able to move forward to a certain point while the slower cars fall back. Still, the fastest cars will be at the front and, as long as the leader is in clean air, he (or possibly she) will be hard to catch or pass. The second thing (at least to this fan) is that the pit stops and the strategies for them is often more interesting and dramatic than the actual racing, especially during the middle laps of the race.

One thing that could make this race more interesting than usual is the fact that it’s really not about points, or at least not that much. For several that want to make The Chase it’s all about winning. For those that are already in The Chase, or already have wins, it’s more about winning than anything else. Wins add up to better point’s position when The Chase actually starts and, compared to wins, points don’t really matter that much at this point. As an example, Jeff Gordon sits second in points but if The Chase started today, because of the number of wins he has compared to others, he would be moved further down the list.

It is very possible that someone in the top 25 in points without a win at the moment could take the trip to Victory Lane Sunday afternoon. Although I don’t expect that to happen it is one of the things that will make this race more interesting. Just the thought that says that someone who doesn’t really have a chance of making The Chase because of their points standing actually making it because they win, adds to the drama and excitement of this particular Pure Michigan 400.

By the way, does anyone know what’s going on with the number 48 team these days?

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© August 16, 2014 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

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

Who’ll Make It Happen At The Glen?

Published August 9, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Rusty Norman

Just about every talking head or commentator has made the same or similar statement this week and just in case you missed it, here it is again – “With only five races to go, who will make it happen at The Glen this weekend?” It seems like no one (including me) can come up with anything else to say, at least from this fan’s view. Then again, it is true, there are just five weeks left until we start the Chase (and as some have said, “It’s the new, improved Chase.”)

There’s really not anything new that could be talked about when it comes to The Glen except for the fact that this year the Cup cars are going faster than they’ve ever gone at this track before. There are a lot of reasons for that but none that we really need to go into because they’ve been talked about almost every week of the 2014 NASCAR season. Yes, we all know it’s because of the way that the down force has been changed on the cars this year and the ride height rules being changed. I guess it could also be because of the Goodyear tires, the increased horsepower coming out of all of the camps and just about anything else about we can think of about the Cup cars. One factor I do want to mention is that it appears that the drivers are really beginning to like a lot of things about these cars even though they have something to complain about every week.

When it comes to road course racing, this fan has always liked The Glen. There are many reasons why I like it but I don’t need to go into those. The Glen is a fast-track and the drivers can be aggressive as they make lap after lap trying to work their way towards the front. It is also a track that demands respect from the drivers and there are places they can overdrive and the track offers no forgiveness. One thing stands out very clear to this fan… Barring the unforeseen, this is going to be a strategy and fuel mileage race unless the absolute unforeseen happens. The biggest unforeseen would be an unusual number of cautions, at least from this fan’s view.

As everyone already knows, Jeff Gordon qualified on the pole and could also have a very good chance of winning the race Sunday afternoon. Still, it seems no matter how well Jeff performs, many still want to call him the “old man.” Though it is true that he is 43 there is no doubt in this fan’s mind that he’s as competitive as ever. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he’s even more competitive than he’s been in a long time. I’m sure some of that has to do with the fact of how well he and his team are performing this year but I also think it is because it’s just Jeff Gordon and the way he’s always been. One thing is pretty obvious, he’s not driving like the old man that many say he is…

Even though he’s had a good weekend and is sitting on the pole there is still no guarantee that Jeff Gordon and the 24 team will end up in Victory Lane when all is said and done Sunday afternoon. There are several drivers that intend to make it difficult for him to make it a run from the pole to Victory Lane. In particular and the most obvious ones would be Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger and Kevin Harvick, to mention a few. There are others but I think that will suffice because any one of those three could make Jeff’s task very difficult on this Sunday afternoon.

Included in the drama of the race at The Glen for Sunday afternoon are the plain facts that there are several people that need a win to almost guarantee themselves a spot in The Chase. Topping the list is Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne and followed by several that really don’t want to not be included. Although there is a possibility that a couple of unknowns could end up in the Chase simply by winning, it is more likely from this fan’s view that the field is pretty much set except for maybe one or two. If you’re going to ask me who those two are, I’ll have to answer that I just don’t know. What I do know is that the next five races , including this one, are going to be very interesting especially as the field gets set for the “new and improved Chase.”

Just a quick mention of how this fan thinks the race will go Sunday afternoon. Even though we’ve mentioned this many times, there will be mixed strategies as the day progresses and barring an unusual number of cautions there will be a set number of green flag pit stops the teams will be making. What happens during those pit stops and barring any equipment failures this should prove to be a very fast and stressful race, especially for those that need a win.

It’s pretty definite that Jeff Gordon is on a roll and Brad Keselowski is looking to flex a little bit of Ford muscle from the Penske camp. That’s not even to mention his teammate Joey Logano and the fact that Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards would like to show something from the Roush camp. With the speeds that everyone is running, a lot of things can happen and probably will and just about anyone in the field has a chance to win depending on how things go and where the cautions actually fall.

It’s true we are coming down to crunch time as far as The Chase is concerned and exactly how it’s going to turn out I don’t think anyone knows. One thing is fairly certain about this race though and that would be the fact that someone is going to make it happen at the Glen… it just remains to be seen who that will be…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 9, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s Pocono and Six To Go to the Chase

Published August 2, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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Counting Pocono, it’s six to go to make the show. From this fan’s view, that makes Pocono a “have to win” for some and a “I want to win” for others. No matter what happens Sunday afternoon at the Pocono International Speedway, the die is set for many when it comes to the Chase and for others, there’s still some big question marks.

It has been an interesting week especially with the findings and penalties that NASCAR found and assessed to the #11 car from Joe Gibbs racing. With all of those things taken into consideration that does mean that Denny Hamlin will be without his normal crew chief, Darian Grubb, and he has been docked some points. Since he has a win already, the docked points don’t matter that much and, the way things are being handled by JGR, no matter how things turn out, Darian Grubb should be back for the first race of the Chase. In the past, Denny has run good at Pocono (although not particularly well lately) so it should prove to be interesting to see how he does in this weekend’s race.

Once again the rumblings have started in the garage area (and in the media tents) about how poorly Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are performing lately and everybody’s wondering if they’ve lost their touch. Personally, this fan finds that hard to believe and since they already have three wins, their performance at this point doesn’t really matter that much. It is more likely, at least from this fan’s view, that they’re experimenting which they have been known to do in the past. I suspect they have some things they want to know for when they start the Chase. In reality, they have nothing to lose in experimenting with several different things before the Chase and they don’t have to tie up time practicing at tracks that don’t matter.

Once again this weekend the Penske Fords of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have shown up with some horses under the hood and performance on the track. Now that doesn’t mean that Sunday’s race is a lock for them by any means but it does mean that they should be contenders for the win. Of course there are several that don’t want to see them perform well and it really doesn’t have anything to do with the Hendrick teams. (Well, let me rephrase that slightly… It may matter for the Hendrick team of Kasey Kahne.) What it really has to do with is those that need a win to better their chances of being in the Chase and the last thing they want to see is someone that’s already won this year getting another win.

There is still a lot of buzz about Jeff Gordon’s victory at the Brickyard last weekend and many are wondering if he’s going to take it all the way to the championship at Homestead. Although many of us would like to see Jeff win his fifth championship, this fan chooses not to jump that far ahead and I’m sure that Jeff Gordon will agree. It is more likely he will take one race at a time and, since he’s already in the Chase, he will likely just be going for wins over anything else. In fact, it’s rumored that he said this last week that it’s all about winning now that the pressure is off for making the Chase. I have to admit, I didn’t actually hear him say that but it does make sense.

From this fan’s view, Pocono is a race that can go both ways. What I mean by saying that is it can either be really exciting or really boring especially at the end. It does appear that everyone has a little better grip on the track than they had back in the first part of June because everyone seems to be running a little faster. It doesn’t appear that anyone has a real extreme, dominating advantage for this race but it does appear that the Penske Fords have as good a chance as anybody to dominate the race. I’m not discounting the fact that Hendrick horsepower has shown up in usual fashion but the key to winning this race is going to be consistent lap times and minimum, or no, mistakes.

Track position will be the key and there won’t be room for error at all in the pits, which is usually the case these days. Also, there is no room for the drivers to make mistakes entering or leaving the pits. It is highly likely that this could turn into a fuel mileage race (although I hope not) and that could also make the ending very exciting depending on how far everyone has gone to press the envelope for the fuel window to maintain good track position.

With six races left to go to make the Chase, there are those that seem to think there’s plenty of time left for those three or four in particular that need a win to get one and solidify their place in the Chase. There is a possibility that there could be six different and new winners between now and the start of the Chase (although that’s not too likely.) I do think there will be at least two or three drivers that haven’t won yet this year that will win in the next six races. Of course, that’s just this fan’s opinion… but it is a good one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 2, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Brickyard – 2014

Published July 27, 2014 in Sprint Cup Articles - 0 Comments
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The Brickyard… There’s no place like it and even the NASCAR Cup drivers speak almost as highly of it is they do of Daytona. Of course these days it’s not what it used to be because it’s not bricks all the way around anymore. But there is still that yard of bricks at the finish line and the NASCAR drivers do take the time to, “kiss the bricks” when they win there.

What is it about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that it is held in such high regard and with such fondness by so many drivers and fans throughout the world? Is it because of some kind of magic or magical spell or, is it just because of all of the things that have taken place there? From this fan’s view, I believe it’s the latter and that’s what makes the Brickyard so special. It has a long history and continues to be a place that makes history and that’s what captures the imaginations and attention of race fans of all types everywhere.

Well… I guess that’s enough reminiscing for now. After all, this is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hendrick horsepower made a very strong showing again this weekend. Between Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon (and really, the rest of the Hendrick and Stewart/Haas teams) you might say that the chances are very good that some of that Hendrick horsepower could end up sitting in Victory Lane when the race is over this afternoon. There are a few things that cause me to lean towards that determination and one is that Chevys been known to run very good at the Brickyard. Now, I’m not just saying that; the facts speak really well for themselves. Does that mean that I think that the two that are sitting on the front row have a very good chance of winning this afternoon? Well… It could appear that way but honestly, I’m not so sure.

Four hundred miles at IMS is a long way from beginning to end and anything can happen between the first lap and the last lap. Although it is not outside the realm of possibility (and truthfully, it has been done before) starting on the front row could mean ending up in Victory Lane at the end of the day. Both Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon are quite capable of leading a race from beginning to end, possibly even more so if we’re talking about Kevin Harvick these days. He has been running strong all year and this weekend has been no different for him and the entire number four team. Oh, and by the way, he is starting on the pole.

There are those that say that Jeff Gordon is getting too old to win and that his days are numbered. It’s true, he is getting older but from this fan’s view and in this fan’s opinion, he is as competitive as he’s ever been this year and his standing in the points proves it. He is, after all, going after his fifth victory at the Brickyard and trying to take is fifth cup championship this year. He could very well end up in Victory Lane this afternoon and this fan wouldn’t be all that surprised if he did.

Admittedly, there are several others that intend to make it difficult for Kevin Harvick or Jeff Gordon to end up in Victory Lane on this Sunday afternoon in Indiana. One of those is Jimmie Johnson, and just to keep it in the Hendrick camp, Kasey Kahne would be another. And while I’m at it, I might as well say Dale Junior. Although it’s true he’s been struggling all weekend, it is also true that he and his crew chief Steve Letarte are quite capable of making the necessary changes that could put them in Victory Lane.

A quick glance at the way the practices and qualifying turned out tells us that there are others we should keep an eye on also. A few names that come to mind very quickly are, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart. Although there are several others I could mention I don’t see any reason to go into that much more detail because there are more than a few that can win at the Brickyard today.

In listening to the drivers talk about the track and how the cars handle on it, some things will be very evident in the race. As usual, track position is going to be very important and the pit crews will have to perform flawlessly all day if for no other reason than how narrow pit road is. Being out front in clean air is going to be very important (as it is almost every week) and the drivers are going to have to set up for passing those that they need to pass. This will definitely be a thinking man’s race, of that, I have no doubt. And while we’re talking about important things that could affect the outcome of the race today, let’s just hope that there are no tire issues…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 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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