Sprint Cup Teams Hit the Road Course at Sonoma from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
There’s really nothing new about stock cars running the Road Racing circuit at Sonoma – it’s been going on for a long time. Even though there is nothing new about it, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a pleasant change from watching them go around in circles all the time. Not only do the fans enjoy it but most, if not all, of the drivers seem to enjoy it too.

Of course there are those that don’t know why they have to do the road course thing but they are becoming less and less prevalent in the series and it seems there are fewer and fewer “ringers” employed just for the road races. In this fan’s opinion the regular Cup drivers like the challenge of the Road Races even if they’re not all that good at it. Just because they’re not good at it doesn’t mean they don’t try to improve their ability to road race better. If they are supposed to be the best race car drivers in the world, this fan wonders why they wouldn’t want to be better at this part of their craft.

Some make the excuse for not liking road racing (or at least used to) because they only do it a couple of times a year and there is no road race in the Chase so they see no point in becoming better at it. Fortunately, more and more of them just look at the challenge rather than the purpose when it comes to these races and, in this fan’s opinion, it is good for them to mix in a few right turns with all those left ones.

Just as a side note, we as fans often hear the drivers complain about restrictor plate racing in much the same way. Restrictor plate races are definitely a different beast when it comes to the racing part but they don’t get the same treatment as the road circuits. In the Chase format there is still a restrictor plate race and many call it the throw away race simply because anything can happen. At a restrictor plate race much of what happens can often be determined more by circumstances rather than driver performance simply because the cars are very well matched. At a road course the driver is generally a more important factor in the results. Consistency on a lap after lap basis often shows better results in the end at a road course. At a restrictor plate race, generally but not always, we are waiting for the last 50 miles or so to see the real racing take place.

Personally, I really like it when NASCAR goes to the road racing circuits. I am also more and more becoming one of those that thinks there should be a road race in the Chase. After all, it is one that really separates the best from the better when it comes to ability and could be an exciting addition to the Chase. In one sense, the road races could be just one more equalizer in the Chase but there are many that disagree with that thinking. Perhaps from their view, and this is just this fan’s opinion, stock car racing takes place most of the time on an oval track and that’s the way the Chase should be. Still I wonder, could the Chase be made even more interesting if a road course was included?

Well, that’s enough ranting about road racing courses, restrictor plates and whether or not a road course should be in the Chase and get back to talking about the ones that will be competing in the Toyota/SaveMart 350.

I don’t know about you but it has seemed to me the drivers are a bit more relaxed this weekend. I don’t know if it’s because they had a week off or because of the road course racing they will be doing this weekend. I can’t say the intensity isn’t there it’s just that the “feel” is different this weekend. If you ask some of the talking heads you will hear them say it’s because they’re in “wine country.” I don’t know about that but even they have noticed a little bit less tension in the air this weekend. In fact, even the interviewers and interviews have been more relaxed, too.

First of all let me say that practice is a lot different than the race. In practice a lot of the runs they make, the cars are either by themselves or around very few other cars. When it comes to the actual race there will be many more cars to contend with and their mistakes can make a big difference on someone that is running good. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone with an opportunity to finish out front or at least in the top five got taken out of contention by someone that just loses it or gets tired of waiting for an opening. Of course there are those pit stops and the strategy that goes along with that part of trying to come away with a win. One bad pit stop or a caution coming out at an inopportune time can make the difference between finishing up front and being an also ran.

There are a lot of good road course drivers in the field these days and not all of them are on some of the better known and better financed teams. Although they don’t necessarily have high odds of winning, they can surprise a lot of people by finishing in the top ten. I’m not saying they can’t or won’t win, I’m just saying their chances are a little bit lower than the better known drivers and teams.

When it comes to mentioning some of those better known drivers, at the top of the list would be names like Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Bush, Tony Stewart and a host of others. All of them have struggled on road courses in the past but all of the above mentioned ones (along with others) have found reasonable success at them and people expect them to make a good showing. Some of them are expected to win while others need to win.

One that needs to win whether it is this weekend or very soon would be Tony Stewart. He is very capable of winning on any racetrack and his chances are especially good on a road course. He still has a few hurdles ahead of him and he can’t really afford to have a bad race especially at a track like Sonoma where he can finish at or near the front by the time the checkered flag drops. At the moment, he is 35th in points but only 48 points out of 30th. He has a good chance at making the Chase if he can get to 30th in points but will need a win to do so. He needs nothing less than a good finish this weekend and winning would almost kill two birds with one stone… He still has time even if he doesn’t but winning would definitely take a lot of pressure off of him and his team…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 25, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Some Thoughts on the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series So Far from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
Since the NASCAR Cup Teams are taking a break from racing this weekend, I thought it might be a good time for this fan’s assessment of the Cup Series so far for the 2016 season. I’m not so sure many will agree with my assessment but I am going to express myself, if for no other reason than because I want to. After all, it has been interesting although not always exciting so far.

When the 2016 NASCAR season started back in February, this fan was facing it with mixed emotions. I don’t know the exact reasons but I do remember I just wasn’t all that excited about it. Usually, I am ready for the start of the season well before it arrives but this year was different. Of course it could’ve been because one of my favorite drivers over the last 20 plus years had retired when the 2015 season ended. Just in case you haven’t guessed his name already, that would be Jeff Gordon.

I was definitely a Jeff Gordon fan (and still am) even though I tried very hard when writing about my favorite sport to not be biased in his direction. It was going to be different in 2016 without him competing and I hadn’t found a driver to replace him as what I would call one of my favorites. In fact, I still haven’t. I do have some I like over the others but I still haven’t found a favorite.

What has been easier for me, at least so far, is to have my very short list of drivers that have made my “drivers I don’t want to see win and don’t intend to root for” list and at the same time, try not to be too hard on them. One thing is certain about that list and the drivers on it… they didn’t get on it just because of their actions starting with the 2016 season and I can’t say they are permanent members. For the present, let’s just say they are, and have been, regular fixtures on it for a while now.
There are those that have previously been on that list but they have managed to get off of it simply because they changed or, at least they changed my mind. I suppose some would say they “matured” but I just prefer to say they grew up. Whatever the case, now I watch with interest their weekly exploits in NASCAR along with several others but they just haven’t made that “favorites” list. I guess that makes me like almost every other NASCAR fan in that sense. We all have drivers we love to hate. Maybe hate is a bit strong for the PC crowd these days so let me restate it this way; we all have drivers we love to not like… (But man, that sure loses something of the emotion we feel as fan’s when we try to justify to ourselves the reasons we don’t like them, doesn’t it?)

Perhaps it was because last season was Jeff’s last year in competition and his last chance to win his fifth NASCAR Cup Championship that made the year more interesting than it actually was. He didn’t disappoint as he made the Chase and had a real chance to win that fifth championship. He didn’t win it though but it still made the season interesting right down to the last race at Homestead.

With Tony Stewart announcing 2016 would be his final year, there was a glimmer of hope the season would have much of the same drama as 2015. Unfortunately he was injured in an accident before the season started and it was unknown whether or not he would be able to compete in the 2016 season at all let alone make the Chase or have a chance to win another Championship. Now that he has been able to return to the competition in the Cup series a little of the drama has returned and many hope he at least makes the Chase but it just isn’t the same as it was last season.

I have to admit; the first part of the 2016 NASCAR season just wasn’t getting or holding my attention like season’s past. From my view, the racing was relatively boring until the final laps and I found myself not really caring much who might win even in the close battles in the final few laps. In some ways the racing was almost predictable and it seemed, at least to this fan, the real racing wasn’t going to be until the final ten laps or so. For some reason, the races just weren’t holding my interest and I found myself coming away from them disappointed and a bit disillusioned.

As I sat back and evaluated my seeming struggle with the races I have to admit it seemed NASCAR was changing, I wasn’t and I really wasn’t very fond of the direction it seemed it was going. In fact, I was looking at it as some of my non-NASCAR fans looked at it and that bothered me. I have been a fan for longer than I had been a racer at our local speedways and I couldn’t figure out why this year seemed so lack-luster and I just didn’t want to sit through hours of what seemed to be time killing procedures until the last five or so laps and/or that late race caution or two. I even noticed it bothered me there seemed to be greater divide between the old favorites and the new young startups, at least in my opinion, and I wondered where it was all heading.

Yes, I know it hasn’t been and isn’t as bad as I just made it sound but that is the way it seemed to me in the early part of this season. I even considered looking for another sport to follow but, being an old racer and an avid NASCAR fan, there just wasn’t one there for me that takes its place.

So I’ve stuck it out and I find my interest returning. I know I will probably one day have a new favorite driver and I’m sure it will be someone I’ll want to see take it to all those other drivers on a regular basis. So far, it has been a different year for me and NASCAR along with a year of change in many ways, some for the better and some I guess we will just have to see about. Rest assured of this though; NASCAR is still NASCAR and it is still the best racing around, (well, at least it is to this fan…)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 18, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

NASCAR At Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
There are a lot of things going on in NASCAR these days and the race at Michigan is only one of them. Between NASCAR experimenting with reduced down force for the future, crew chiefs being suspended and then put on probation for the rest of the year and others being fined for speaking their minds, this fan doesn’t remember so many things going on and changing so much in recent years. Why Goodyear even brought a tire more suited for the reduced down force and it remains to be seen how that works out for the Cup teams. It has truly been interesting so far and I don’t really think it’s going to be much different in the days ahead. It truly appears to be an interesting time of what some would call testing (although I call it experimentation) for the future of close, intense and interesting racing for NASCAR in general so the fans don’t lose interest.

It is interesting to this fan that NASCAR seemed to suddenly take an interest in lug nuts and decided to keep closer track of them over the last few weeks. I think the first thing I noticed and find interesting is that they seemed to have renewed interest in them only after Tony Stewart made mention of them in an interview and they fined him a large amount of money for bringing it up. I am of the opinion either they were already going to start policing the lug nut issue around the time of his interview statements or they didn’t like a driver bringing up safety features without consulting them, (or maybe I should say at least slightly embarrassing them in an interview.)

I have to admit, I shared the same feelings Tony stated and wondered how reducing the number of lug nuts could be safe and why the sanctioning body wasn’t doing anything about it. Look, I know no one cares about my old racing days but I do remember one night in particular that I had an issue with lug nuts. I had an axle break in one of the heat races but the spare axle we had with us didn’t have all the lugs in it. In fact, it only had one and it was the standard sized lug that came with it. Our usual axles had larger lugs to give more strength. Since we were short lugs but wanted to try and run the feature race, we decided to borrow lugs from the front left. Unfortunately, we could only sacrifice two from it and put them in the replacement axle.

Needless to say, it was a decision made under duress and it turned out to be a bad one as well. To test it out before being in the heat of the battle of the race, I decided to do a burnout when I pulled out on the track for the lineup. Immediately all three lugs broke off the left rear and we missed the feature anyway. Hey, I know racing at my local track has very little to nothing to do with racing at the NASCAR level but I think it shows how important it is to have all lug nuts on and tightened in the proper manner for safety’s sake.

I guess I am saying all this to say I agree with NASCAR and the way they a stressing the importance of the lug nut issue although I may not agree with the punishments being doled out. I do think they are making the point that they don’t intend to put up with infractions such as missing and loose lug nuts and the point cannot be overlooked when people are suspended from events and put on probation. Like Tony mentioned in his interview, “Please save us from ourselves.)

Once again this weekend, Joey Logano was in the final segment of qualifying sitting on top and waiting to see if someone was going to take the pole from him but no one did. He will start from the pole position and lead the field to take the green flag for the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday afternoon. The last two races he has started second and this is another race he will be starting on the front row. Just because he is starting on the front row does not mean he is a lock to win the race but, as much as this fan may hate to admit it, he very well could win it or, at the very least, be contending for the win at the end of 400 miles.

Once again of course this fan doesn’t put a lot of stock in the qualifying session for this race. Even though the weather cooperated this weekend, I just don’t think the qualifying is a good measure for what the racing will be like at all. The drivers and their teams were still adapting to the reduced down force and Goodyear’s latest tire combination while trying to qualify. The track does have good grip but with the reduced down force the drivers will be challenged more than usual at Michigan.

So you may be asking, “Why did NASCAR decide to reduce the down force?” Well, contrary to popular opinion they didn’t just think of it and they did let everyone know they were going to go with reduced down force this weekend. It is not the first time they have done it and it won’t be the last. In this fan’s opinion, it just might make the racing a bit more interesting than is usual at Michigan. Michingan has always been a fast two mile oval and at times has been a bit monotonous, at least in this fan’s opinion.

I still think the Fords are struggling a bit right along with the Hendrick Chevys even though Logano is sitting on the pole and will likely pull away from the field at the beginning of the race, in particular because of being out in clean air. Of course that also depends on whether he does pull out into clean air or drop like a rock through the field as he has done a time or two before. Don’t forget Tony Stewart is starting third and has a real incentive to win this one as he tries to qualify for the Chase in this, his final year of competition in the Cup Series.

Say what you will but this fan thinks this will be a fuel mileage race much like the one at Pocono was last weekend. Fuel mileage has a way of equalizing the competition in any race it becomes a factor as was proven by Kurt Bush last weekend. I’m still not ruling out the possibility of one of the Joe Gibbs Toyotas ending up in Victory Lane simply because of the dominance they have displayed during much of this first part of the season. If it is a JGR Toyota that takes the checkered flag my thinking is it will be Carl Edwards but, then again it could be someone like Ryan Blaney or Chase Elliott, I just don’t know for sure…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 11, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

NASCAR Sprint Cup Teams Take On “Tricky” Pocono from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
There’s something about Pocono that I’ve never really understood. I guess it’s the way it is interpreted by many and the fact I interpret it differently. When people talk about other racetracks – other than a road course – they usually are looking at two straight-aways and four corners and they call them by the names front straight – turns one and two – the back straight and turns three and four. When it comes to Pocono, there are three straights and you would think that would mean six turns but it doesn’t. It seems everyone prefers to use the terms turn one, turn two and turn three and it is even supported by a statement on the wall in what is considered turn three – “what turn four.” From this fan’s view that is just one of the things about Pocono that makes it “Tricky.” In fact, you will often hear people refer to the turns as corners. I don’t know about you but that has always been a question for me as a former racer and, presently, avid NASCAR fan.

There are other reasons they call this track “The Tricky Triangle.” Just one of them is that there are three distinct corners and all of them have their own personality. To perform well on race day at this track the drivers have to compromise. If they want to be comfortable in all three turns it is likely they won’t be sitting comfortably in Victory Lane when it is over. The driver that has a fast race car and is most comfortable with the three different turns and the compromises made for the differences between them will most likely be the one, or at least one of the ones, contending for the checkered flag when it drops.

From this fan’s view, the driver’s ability to not be too picky about how each turns handles and concentrate on the strengths the compromises give in the overall performance of a lap is going to be a plus when it comes down to crunch time at the end of the day. It isn’t uncommon for a driver to complain a lot about how bad his car is in one turn over the others and it is not uncommon to hear the crew chief come back with a, “You’re faster than all the others so don’t sweat it.” In other words, he is likely saying in a nicer way, “Just shut up… Suck it up and drive.”

Another reason Pocono is called “tricky” is because they have to shift to get through all the turns and that extra long front straight if they want maximum performance in their lap times. Shifting isn’t new to them but, other than being on a road course, they don’t do it very often. Of course we all know they have to go through the gears when they have pit stops, starts and restarts but generally speaking it is not something they do throughout a race on a regular weekend on an oval track as opposed to one “Tricky Triangle.”

Once again this weekend the weather has had an influence on the competition for the Axalta, “We Paint Winners 400” race at Pocono. Even though a few did get in a few short laps during the first practice, it was cut short because of rain and even the qualifying looked a bit “iffy” for a while. They did manage to get it in and, not too surprisingly (at least to this fan), the Penske Fords ended up on the front row to start Sunday afternoon’s race. It looked like Joey Logano was going to be the pole-sitter right up until the last minute or so and that’s when his teammate, Brad Keselowski, outran Logano’s time and put himself on the pole. It kind of reminded of the way the Penske teams showed their muscle last season and did the same thing several times.

I don’t put much stock in the qualifying times for this weekend in particular. Because of the weather delays I much prefer to look at the performance during the final practice on Saturday. Even though it may not mean much to the way the race ends up, from this fan’s view, the Saturday practice is probably a much better representation of how the Cup teams will perform during the race. I’m not saying the Penske Fords won’t be at or near the front when the race is done but I am also not saying they will be out front either. Even though Logano had a good qualifying time last weekend, it didn’t help him get ahead of Martin Truex, Jr. as Truex Jr. dominated the entire race. Winning last weekend didn’t help Truex all that much this weekend either and he qualified seventeenth. A quick look at the practice time for Saturday show’s Truex Jr. fourth fastest while the Penske cars ran seventh and eighth.

I have to admit I am anxious to see how the Hendrick Chevys perform this weekend. Lately, they just haven’t looked like the Hendrick teams of past years. I wish we could blame it on Jeff Gordon’s retirement but we all know that has had nothing to do with it. They were struggling at the end of last year, too, and although they are looking better they haven’t shown that much muscle so far when it comes down to where they finish. I expect that to change before we reach the Chase but know it won’t come too soon for them when it does.

I’ve been trying not to make predictions of which of the drivers will win this season but I do have my opinion of those to watch. This one is not easy to call for this fan but I can tell you the ones I definitely don’t want to see win. Once again, (and I think I’m becoming quite predictable at this), I would really rather not see Joey Logano or Denny Hamlin doing the Victory Lane thing. It’s funny that I don’t care if others end up there multiple times but for those two I just don’t relish the thought. It would be interesting to see Kyle Larson, Chase Elliot or some of the other often mentioned but non-winners for this year end the day in Victory Lane; anybody but those two I just mentioned. Shucks, I don’t even have a good reason for not wanting them to win… I just don’t want them to.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 4, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

600 Miles at Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanThe Cup teams take on the longest race at Charlotte Sunday afternoon into the night and that means 600 miles of driving, thinking, planning and enduring to the end. Well… that is if one of the 40 Teams that will start want to have a chance to end up in Victory Lane. Otherwise it’s just a long way to the finish.

After the way the All Star race went last weekend, this fan wonders if the 600 miles will go with similar action or the usual running of laps, counting them down until the last 50 – 100 miles or so. Since the weather may become part of the strategy for the race, it could be a race that is quite a bit more intense than the normal 600. It could be the only thing missing would be a full moon.

Speaking of the All Star race, Kyle Larson had another great race to follow up his performance and intense finish with Matt Kenseth at Dover and he is one of the ones I am choosing to be there at the end possibly contending once again for the checkered flag; but I get ahead of myself just a little…

Many have commented on the latest running of the All Star race and there was a mixture of positive and negative comments, at least within earshot of me (and of course, on social media.) It seemed some didn’t like the way things panned out as the race progressed and, for some reason, many were blaming NASCAR for some of the decisions and rulings made during the race. Of course there were some very interesting situations that arose, at least in this fan’s opinion and several of them were just because of the way things happened at strategic moments in the race. (There was also that full moon thing going on.. at least that was the opinion of some.)

The All Star race is a very unique race and always has interesting rules and scenarios mostly to make it one of the most interesting races of the year. After all, these are supposed to be the All Stars and no one really wants to see just another race on a Saturday night.

Actually, I found the race this year to hold my interest right down to the last couple of laps. I lost interest at that point simply because this fan is not a Joey Logano fan and I would have much rather have seen Kyle Larson and his team take home the million dollars. I’m sure that may raise the ire of certain fans, but really, I’m just being honest. There are only about two or three drivers I am just not that impressed with and, no matter what his level of success, I’m just not a Logano fan. That doesn’t mean he’s not a talented driver, it just means something about him rubs me the wrong way and always has. I won’t try to explain it by any other means other than that’s just the way it is. (Okay… so call me biased and opinionated… it’s okay, I can take it; and by the way, you wouldn’t be the first to do so either…)

There’s just something about the 600 that brings out differences of opinion when it comes down to the actual race. Some say it is too long and others say the middle is uneventful. In this fan’s opinion, it can go either way but it isn’t that much different than the usual restrictor plate race. Though the 600 isn’t a restrictor plate race, at times it can seem as though it is dragging on a long time. Understandably the drivers don’t want to expend themselves or their cars before it gets close to the end but there are moments when they are just clicking off the laps and trying not to get too far behind or go a lap or two down.

Something that could add to the drama might be the weather. If it looks like the race might be called after the halfway point but rain hasn’t begun to fall, we will all be treated to some very exciting racing while the drivers try to position themselves to be out front if the rain begins to fall. If it doesn’t look like rain, I expect it will be the usual 600 mile race with a lot of excitement happening in the last 100 or so miles.

Most of the Chevys qualified outside the top ten but this fan isn’t so sure that means they won’t be a factor when it comes down to crunch time. What it tells me is it is likely they are more focused on the end of the race rather than where they will be starting. Of course the Toyotas will probably flex their muscles as they usually do but to this fan’s surprise, the Fords have four starting in the top six. They have been looking a little better in the last several weeks but it still remains to be seen if they will be pressing anyone for the win near the end.

Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the only two Chevys that qualified in the top ten and, from this fan’s view and barring the unforeseen, either one or both of them could be battling for the lead when comes down to the end of however many laps and miles the race actually runs. As I write this, I’ve heard there could be interruptions for rain during the normal race (at least nearer to the end) and it could shorten the race substantially. If it looks like the race will be rain shortened, I expect more of the field will be pressing to get to the front and staying there.

So will it be pole-sitter, Martin Truex Jr. turning his luck around for a win or maybe a Kyle Larson taking the win instead of battling to win and then losing it in the final laps again? I really don’t know for sure. What I’m really hoping for is a really interesting race with a mixture of drama and emotion and lots of action. In a longer race like the 600 there is the tendency for it to be a bit humdrum, especially in the middle laps. If there is the threat of rain shortening the race it will definitely make for quite a bit more tension and drama and that might be just what it needs. I just hope it doesn’t turn out that a shortened race allows one of those few I don’t want to win to win. After spending all that time watching a long race like the 600, it would be such a letdown to see a yellow car with red numbers or a black and purple one with white numbers win. (I’m sure you know which drivers I’m talking about…)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 28, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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

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Rusty Norman
It was kind of a rocky start for some when the first practice started at the Monster Mile, shutting it down for an extended period and affecting, in particular, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray and then… It rained. The rain washed out the qualifying session and the lineup will come from that first practice. For some, that was good but for others, well… maybe not so good.

Of immediate concern to all was Tony Stewart and his well being after his hard impact with the wall when Danica’s car dumped a bunch of rear end lube. He immediately told his crew on the radio that it hurt and he did exit the car slowly but, to everyone’s relief, walked to the ambulance on his own. He did manage to get back on the track with a backup car and made about three laps with it under speed.

Before I say too much about this weekend’s race, I just have to make a few comments about last weekend at Kansas. It seems if it weren’t for bad luck, Martin Truex Jr. would have no luck at all. He definitely had the field covered at Kansas and, had it not been for an unusual happening on his last pit stop, this fan thinks – along with many others – he would have ended up in Victory Lane.

As it turned out, Kyle Bush did end up there and walked away with his third victory of the 2016 season. As mentioned in last week’s article/podcast, the Joe Gibbs Toyotas looked very strong and had it not been for the strange happening with Truex Jr’s wheel problem and Denny Hamlin’s poor judgment trying to pass in the middle of a three-wide situation, all of the Gibb’s Toyotas would have finished quite well. Of course, Kyle Bush’s car did fail post race inspection and I’ll talk more about that later…

(I’ll be back in a minute after a word about today’s sponsor…)

The Monster at Dover does make life interesting for the drivers and the fans. With its 24 degree banking on the turns and 9 degree banking on the front and rear straights, the speeds are high and the action is generally fast on this 1 mile oval. When things go wrong, they usually happen in a hurry, too. Just as a quick review of Danica’s blowing a rear end gear, her car dumped a lot of rear end lube on the track. Following behind her were her teammate, Tony Stewart and fellow competitor, Jamie McMurray. Neither of them had time to miss the oil on the track or avoid hitting the wall and they were probably running around 150 mph when they got into the oil. In the same way, the Monster can attack anyone at anytime during the race on Sunday afternoon; no one is considered to be exempt from the perils at the Dover track.

Once again the JGR Toyotas showed up as they have most every weekend this season. They are definitely rolling and it wouldn’t surprise this fan at all to see one of them winning the Autism 400. I can’t discount the Stewart/Haas Chevys of Kevin Harvick or Kurt Bush though. Both looked fairly strong in the practices and both generally run good at Dover. The problem as this fan sees it is that the JGR Toyotas, in particular, haven’t really shown much weakness in any area so far. As the races have progressed most weekends, one or more of them have generally been in the mix for taking the win in these first ten or so races and, from this fan’s view, this weekend doesn’t look to be much different. The Stewart/Haas teams of Harvick and Bush, along with the Hendrick Chevys just might have something to say about it this weekend but I just don’t know if they’ve caught up to JGR yet.

Even though Kyle Bush won last weekend, he didn’t come away from the weekend unscathed. In post-race inspection it was discovered that not all of the lug nuts were on tight. With NASCAR’s newest ruling about the number of lug nuts and how well they are tightened, Kyle lost his crew chief and front tire changer at least for this weekend. From this fan’s view, I just don’t see that affecting his ability to win all that much. JGR has depth overall in the pits and elsewhere across the organization so I just don’t see where it will make a whole lot of difference. What will make an impact, at least in this fan’s opinion, is whether any of the other teams are beginning to catch up to the competitive level the JGR teams have displayed overall this season.

When it comes down to the racing, don’t look for it to be a ho-hum race without drama or excitement. As I mentioned earlier, the Monster Mile at Dover is no easy beast to tame and it remains to be seen who will be the one to do so in the Autism 400 Sunday afternoon.

Jimmie Johnson has a lot of wins at this track and he could be the one to tame it or it could be his teammate, Dale Jr. Both of them are looking for a victory and Dale Jr. probably desires it more than Jimmie and that isn’t taking anything away from JJ’s desire to add another victory to his stats for this season. I’m definitely not ruling Brad Keselowski out either and he generally runs pretty well at the Monster Mile along with teammate Joey Logano. The problem I have with picking an actual winner this weekend is that there are so many possibilities to choose from. Instead I’m going to go with saying I don’t think it will be someone that doesn’t deserve it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 14, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

It’s Saturday Night Under The Lights At Kansas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
After the wreck-fest at Talladega last weekend, NASCAR Cup teams hitting the track at Kansas may seem a bit tame. Kansas Speedway is a 1.5 mile driver and fan favorite and should prove to be an interesting race and even better yet, it’s another Saturday night under the lights. Nothing really compares with racing under the lights, at least from this fan’s view.

There are a lot of people that like when NASCAR races under the lights on a Saturday night. That could be because many a NASCAR fan grew up going to Saturday night racing at our local tracks and some of us even had the opportunity to drive in those races. Honestly, there’s just something about Saturday night races whether you’re a fan or a driver.

It appears, at least for the moment, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano have put their differences behind them – well… at least for the time being – but with the history the two of them had have over the last couple of seasons, who knows how things will be after this one is over tonight.

From this fan’s view, it seems when a couple of drivers have a few run-ins, somehow they manage to be around each other a lot and tensions can run pretty high for an extended period. I guess I should add, when one or the other of them thinks they’ve been wronged by the other or they actually have been wronged by the other; (and last season is a prime example of that between these two drivers.) All it takes is a misstep, whether intentional or not, by one or the other for things to flare up all over again. (Sometimes, the flare-up is to the delight of the fans and adds to the intensity and excitement week in and week out.)

Just one final statement of the racing at Talladega last weekend; when it comes down to it it’s likely only two things will be remembered by everyone about the race. Brad Keselowski won and they set a new record for the number of “Big Ones” in a race at Talladega. The final tally I heard of the number of cars that had either light or major damage in those accidents was thirty-three out of the forty that started.

(Be back in a minute; commercial for two buck themes or living life notes?)

When I was involved in racing I raced Chevys. As a Chevy fan, it is hard for me to fathom how strong the Toyotas are this season, especially the Joe Gibbs Toyotas. They have shown up just about every week so far as the ones to beat (whether they’ve won or not) and this week doesn’t look to be much different. All of the JGR teams and associated teams ran strong in practice and in qualifying and it could be an understatement for me to mention one of them “could” end up in Victory Lane when the Go Bowling 400 is done.

What I mean is, just look at the results from qualifying and the lineup for tonight’s race. JGR and associated Toyotas are four of the top six starters. Kurt Bush and Brad Keselowski slipped in between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Bush but, from this fan’s view, that’s a pretty strong statement coming from the JGR Toyota camp. Carl Edwards was the only one that qualified outside of the top ten from the JGR camp and he was twelfth. He did look good in practice though and, barring the unforeseen, he could be contending for the win as the laps wind down tonight.

It has to be hard for the teams that once held the dominating place in NASCAR to be looking on helplessly as not performing up to even their own standards. Of course I know you know I’m talking about Hendrick Motorsports. They just haven’t shown the strength they have in past years throughout their organization. Sure, I know Jimmie Johnson has two wins under his belt this season but overall, the Hendrick teams have been sort of lack luster performers at least so far this season. Although I know they could have a strong performance tonight and make my statements sound kind of empty but, from this fan’s view, they are struggling this season much as the Roush teams have for the past few years.

In fact, the Hendrick teams do appear to be going through some similar things the JGR teams did not all that long ago. Twice this year that we know of, their drivers have had trouble with the steering wheel not being properly locked on the shaft and coming off. It has been such a concern that it has caused them to use different ones starting this weekend at Kansas. One of those times this season it caused Jimmie Johnson to wreck and last weekend, Dale Jr. could have had disastrous results had it happened at a slightly different time and place on the track. That’s just a couple of the little things hounding Hendrick racing this season along with the fact they just haven’t looked like they have in the past when it comes to race days. When you add up all of those little details hounding them, it could explain why they aren’t so dominating on the track, at least, so far.

This could be a break out weekend for Martin Truex Jr. and this fan will admit he is due for a win but it remains to be seen if he will be able to pull it off. The same goes for Matt Kenseth. He just hasn’t been able to catch a break in this first ten races of the season. I’m not going to say the winner of tonight’s race will be a part of JGR but they do look good for it. Of course it could be a night that surprises all of us and someone totally unexpected wins…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 7, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take On Talladega – Restricted of Course from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanTalladega is a super speedway. It was made for speed… well that is until in NASCAR’s opinion and in the name of safety the speeds became too great for everyone to remain safe whether talking about drivers or the fans. There’s something about the cars going well over 200 mph that makes them want to become airplanes and fly into the stands or elsewhere. Even though technology has reduced the dangers of the higher speeds at the real super speedways like Talladega and Daytona, the restrictor plates are still used to limit the speed of the Cup cars and there are pro and con arguments about their continued use.

The drivers often mention they don’t like them because they just can’t pass when they want to even though NASCAR has made numerous changes to the cars to improve the racing. The fans sometimes complain they don’t like the restrictor plates because often during the race the drivers fall in line and play follow the leader for many laps. If someone does manage to break away along with a small group, they can generally pull away as that small group for a while but those behind them generally can work together to catch up. Probably the biggest complaint I hear personally is that they run around for most of the afternoon waiting for the last 10-20 laps while planning their last 2 lap strategy for the end of the race.

As a fan, I like restrictor plate racing for the most part. One of the several things I like about it is how it makes the racing closer than it would be normally because of how the draft works. If someone loses the draft, they drop like a rock until they can join up with someone (or several someones) to be able catch back up.

As a former local short rack stock car driver, I liked those races where the lineups would cause us to run lap after lap, door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper. (Of course I do have to admit I liked it much better when I was either out front or in the second or third row.) Some of the most exciting races I remember were the ones where we would run many laps and no one could move forward or fall back. If you were slower than the one in back of you, they would push you making you go faster. If you were faster than those in front of you, you did the same thing. It was a lot of fun but could get pretty intense, too.

Sometimes – I’m speaking as a fan again – the middle of the race can become a little bit boring if the field decides to kill some laps by running in single file for an extended period of time. There absolutely nothing less exciting than watching 40 fast cars running in single file just knocking out laps until it gets closer to a pit stop or crunch time. For a fan watching from the stands or on TV, the two and three wide racing for an extended period generates much more enthusiasm. Even though it may appear not much is going on, it is at those times people begin to wonder if something might happen to cause a “Big One” like a blown tire or loss of control by one or more of the drivers. It is that intensity of the two and three wide racing that puts many people on the edge of their seats, well, that is until it comes down to the last laps.
I did find it a bit unexpected and interesting that the Toyotas didn’t show up at all in the top ten or twelve during the practice sessions Friday afternoon with the strength they’ve shown over the last few weeks or so. I just didn’t expect to see mostly Chevys and Fords filling in those top positions in the practice. Be that as it may, I do expect to see at least a couple of the Gibbs Toyotas to make themselves known on Sunday afternoon during the race.

It is just so hard to pick a winner in a restrictor plate race and the easiest thing for this fan to do is to not pick one at all and just see what happens. I don’t often like to choose the path of least resistance so I do choose to pick those I think will be contenders when it comes time for the checkered flag to drop at the end of the Geico 500 at Talladega. I do have some favorites I would like to see win but I don’t just want to name those I’d like to see win. I’d much rather pick one and either be right or wrong about it do I can brag a little or hope nobody remembers which one I picked.

This being Talladega and considering the practices and qualifying, I really think it will be one of about four drivers. Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliot and Dale Jr. are right there at the top of my list. I’m going with Dale Jr. to win it but I must admit it is hard choice between those four at least from my view.

It doesn’t really matter which of the 40 drivers I pick to win because this is Talladega and, as with any restrictor plate race, if they’re still in it when it’s time for the checkered flag to drop they still have a chance to win it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 30, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Daytime Short Tracking Plus the Smoke Returns At Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman

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For the third time in four weeks NASCAR takes on a short track and this time it is Richmond in the daytime. That in itself should make for an interesting Sunday afternoon but there is one thing more I am sure has not gone unnoticed by most NASCAR fans…

That’s right; you didn’t even have to guess did you? Tony – Smoke – Stewart is returning to his car as not only the owner but also the driver for the first time since last season. For those that may be wondering why I bring this up, this was supposed to be his last season and he had high hopes of being competitive, possibly even winning another Championship. As it stands right now, he has quite a task before him to even make the Chase let alone be a real contender to win a Championship in his final year of competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Just the fact that Smoke is returning to the driving side of his car is enough to make more people show up to watch, whether at the track or the TV side, simply because they want to know how he will fair and see whether or how his major back injury will affect him and whether or not it is really healed as they say. When it comes to the race, Richmond is a tough track and should show if there are any weak spots in his healing and recovery.

Richmond is usually a night time race so, with this one being in the daytime, it presents some new challenges for the teams, crew chiefs and the drivers as well. On top of all of that, Goodyear brought a different tire to this weekend’s race and it is supposed to (or at least should) improve the way the cars handle and make the racing a little bit more interesting.

Recently at Richmond, it seems that one car has shown up and dominated the race and it is my hope that will not be the case on Sunday afternoon. With the dominance the JGR teams have shown early in this 2016 season, this fan wonders if this might not be a weekend that some other team or teams show a little more strength than they have recently. Judging from the first practice – which was rain shortened – and with no qualifying, the starting lineup may be a little deceptive. It is difficult to say if anyone really has an advantage or if the teams really have a grip on how the track and tires will hold up. The Saturday morning practice was interesting and, from this fan’s view, it was obvious the teams were looking for good information that might carry over to race time Sunday afternoon. Whether they found what they were looking for or not remains to be seen.

Kevin Harvick posted the fastest time in the first practice on Saturday and that gave him the pole position for starting the Toyota Owners 400. Of course my favorite driver to root against, Joey Logano, is starting on the outside pole. It could mean he will be a contender when it comes down to crunch time but it could also mean he won’t even be close if the last couple of finishes or so give any insight into how he might finish. In fact, lately, the two Penske Fords just haven’t shown the same strength on race day they often did last year. I’m not saying they’re in trouble competitively at all but they just haven’t been in the mix at the end like they were last season. This may the weekend they begin to turn that around but, from this fan’s view and judging by what I’ve observed this weekend, I just don’t think that’s the case, (at least not yet.)

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest during the Saturday practice session and he was followed by his team mate Kasey Kahne posting second fastest. It does make this fan wonder if the Hendrick teams might make a strong showing on Sunday afternoon but I’m not sure I’m ready to make a bold statement in that direction. It is a possibility but there is the ever present JGR team of Kyle Bush lurking right behind them after posting the third fastest practice time in Saturday’s practice. He was followed by Kevin Harvick and his team mate Carl Edwards. In fact, there were four Toyotas and five Chevys posting the fastest times in the top ten. Barring the unforeseen, that could mean another dominating day for the JGR teams on Sunday afternoon.

When it comes to Tony Stewart (Smoke) and his return to being a driver in the Sprint Cup series, his practices weren’t stellar but he did put in a lot of laps and, at least to this fan, he was none the worse for wear when the practices were over. Of course the race is 400 laps and 300 miles and I will be interested to not only see where he finishes but how he exits the car when the race is over. The hope is he will come away unscathed and confident about moving on to the next race as far as his back is concerned.

Many are pulling for him to come away with a win at Richmond Sunday afternoon so the only thing he would have to do is work his way into the top thirty in points after that. Judging from his practice times, he is a long shot to win the Toyota Owners 400 but he has as good a shot as anyone else that starts (and finishes) the race to come away the winner. Personally, I don’t think he will win but I am glad to see him back in the lineup…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 23, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

High Banks, High Speed Means Big Action at Bristol from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty NormanI don’t why it is but I do know that no matter what happens at Bristol, almost everyone says the same thing; “That’s Bristol, baby!” Whether it’s an on-track incident or something in the pits, it seems that’s the first words out of just about everyone’s mouth. Bristol is, and always has been, a track with high speed and lots of action. Many attribute the speed and the action to those high banked turns and along with all of it, emotions run high which leads to plenty of action all around the track at all times.

Bristol seems to be a track where anything can happen at any time. It doesn’t matter if it is during practice, qualifying or anytime cars are on the track, anything can happen and it usually does. Take for example the incident between Ty Dillon and Landon Cassill during qualifying. Dillon lost control of his #14 Chevy and spun into the back end of Landon Cassill and Cassill was just slowing down to enter in to the pits after his qualifying run. Both suffered a lot of damage and it was just a case of one of them being the wrong place at the right time. But as usual, most just chalked it up to, “being Bristol.”

There were several incidents that happened during the practice sessions and in qualifying and, if the same holds true during the race on Sunday afternoon, this one could turn out to be a very interesting and action packed 500 laps. With the temperature predicted to being close to 80 degrees during race time, it can only enhance the chances of an intensely emotional, beatin’ and bangin’ time during the Food City 500. This fan expects there will plenty of slippin’ and slidin’ as the concrete surface heats up and takes on rubber and the race progresses.

As I mentioned in my last article, the JGR teams are looking very strong and show up strong consistently week after week. Once again this weekend the JGR teams qualified very well and all four of them are starting in the top five of the starting lineup. If that’s not making some kind of statement, this fan doesn’t know what is. Carl Edwards took his second straight pole and even though that doesn’t mean much at times, it does mean JGR is definitely showing up with winning in mind.

Once again, the bright spot for the Hendrick teams was Jimmie Johnson and he qualified sixth. Kasey Kahne and Dale Jr didn’t fare quite as well but from this fan’s view I don’t expect we can judge where they will finish by how they qualified.

Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing, (and one of the Hendrick associated teams), was the bright spot for SHR by qualifying seventh. No matter how you look at it, it does appear that most of the Hendrick and Hendrick associated teams are struggling a bit even though they have been running decently when it comes to race time.

One thing is pretty evident when it comes to racing at Bristol and that is to expect the unexpected from beginning to end of the race on Sunday afternoon. From my view, picking a winner in the Food City 500 is going to be difficult but it could easily be one of the JGR teams. This may be a break out race for Carl Edwards or it could be three in a row for Kyle Bush. No way will I rule out the possibility of Matt Kenseth turning his luck around and ending up in Victory Lane. I’m not saying he will but there is a good possibility he could.

Several people have already stated they think Denny Hamlin or Joey Logano will end up in Victory Lane but this fan cannot think of two drivers he would rather didn’t win other than the two just mentioned. I don’t know why I feel that way about these two but I do know I do. Maybe someday I will change my opinion but it sure hasn’t happened yet. That’s not to say they can’t win or shouldn’t win but it does say this fan won’t be too disappointed if they don’t.

And then there are all of those other drivers that could or might win. I expect the day to be full of surprises and that could very well carry over to the one that ends up in Victory Lane. From this fan’s view, one thing seems to be certain and that is that this should prove to be one of the most interesting and exciting races so far this year. No matter what happens it will definitely live up to the favorite statement uttered from many a fan’s lips and that would be, “That’s Bristol, baby!!!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 16, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated