Nascar at Fontana: Will It Be “Just Another Race” In California This Weekend?

Rusty Norman

 

 

What a difference a year makes… It could be said that in 2009, Jamie McMurray struggled. It wasn’t that he didn’t perform well, it was more that he didn’t finish well. Now, in 2010, he has won the Daytona 500 and has qualified on the pole at Fontana. (Not a bad start to the 2010 season so far, I would say.)
 
 
In fact, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing locked up the front row when Juan Pablo Montoya laid down a qualifying lap just shy of Jamie McMurray’s. It could be said, “Earnhardt Ganassi Racing looks to be the team to beat for the Cup Championship this year…”
 
 
But wait a minute… wasn’t that the same thing that was said about Roush Fenway Racing last year? I mean, if you remember, Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 and followed that rain shortened event victory with a win at Fontana. Not only that, but the Roush Fenway cars had shown themselves to be strong at the end of the 2008 season (just like the EGR and RCR cars had at the end of the 2009 season), (both running Earnhardt/Childers power under the hood.) Naturally we all know what happened after that – Hendrick Teams began to dominate the racing for the rest of the season and finished 1-2-3 in the Cup Championship.
 
 
So what does that say about the apparent strength shown by the EGR teams of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya early into this 2010 season?
 
Not a whole lot in this fan’s opinion… unless they continue to dominate as they have recently.
 
 
I know you understand where I’m coming from. Performance in one race does not make a race team dominant for the year and following up that win with front row starting positions the next race still doesn’t say a whole lot. In reality, and I don’t know about you, but, it will take several more weeks before I can even start to form an opinion about how one team or another is going to perform.
 
 
In fact, it is even hard for me to say who is going to perform well this weekend. With the way the Richard Childers’ teams have been running lately, I don’t think anyone will rule out the possibility of them finishing well this weekend. Kevin Harvick has looked strong since unloading off the truck in Daytona and I don’t see much to make me think this weekend in California will be any different.
 
 
Clint Bowyer started off “Speedweeks” in Daytona by wrecking everything he could but finished up front in the Daytona 500. Up until Jamie McMurray took the pole position for the race this weekend, Clint Boyer was out first to qualify and held the pole position until the two EGR teams took over the front row. He does look to be strong for this weekend also.
 
 
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not expecting much from the 24 and 48 teams yet. Now that doesn’t mean they won’t show up at the front when the race is near completion, it just means I’m not expecting them to look to be the ones to beat this weekend. I think they are still testing setups a bit rather than going with what worked last year. (I mean, after all, this is another year and they probably have a few things that need to be tried that didn’t get tried near the end of last year. Yes, I know I could be wrong, but I just don’t think they come out of the box full bore… they know where they can be, they just have a few things to try yet.) Of course, they could be just off their game a bit and have some catching up to do.
 
 
So… could this be the week that the #42 EGR team breaks into the win column on an oval track? Can Jamie McMurray in the #1 repeat the same as Matt Kenseth did last year after winning the Daytona 500?
 
 
I haven’t even talked about the Toyota teams yet. How will Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin fair throughout the race on Sunday? How about Michael Waltrip Racing’s Martin Truex Jr? And then there’s Marcos Ambrose; he could actually pull off a victory, (even though that is another one of those situations I don’t expect.)
 
 
Even though there are others, like the Ford teams, that could surprise us all, I just think this is going to be the week for Earnhardt/Childer’s horsepower to make a statement. I don’t know whether it will be under the EGR or RCR banner, but I do think that is the stable the victor will emerge from on Sunday.
 
 
Exactly who will it be? Hm-m-m-m… If I was to guess, I think I would pick Kevin Harvick, but then it could be Jamie McMurray or Clint Bowyer… This is way too hard because there is just too much unknown.
 
 
Aw, heck… I think I’ll just go with Mark Martin and let you all just watch the race and see if I am right…
 
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 20, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nascar at Daytona February 2010: Once Again, Daytona Doesn’t Disappoint

The always highly anticipated beginning to the Nascar season, “Speed Weeks” at Daytona, once again lived up to all the usual expectations and a whole lot more. The racing was exceptional in all series (including the ARCA series) and I don’t see how anyone could have asked for more.
 
 
I just don’t know what else Nascar could have done to improve things anymore than what they did. Now, I know there will be those that disagree with me, but I think this is one of the best Speed Weeks I remember in recent history. Yes, there were several changes made to the rules and the track did have a problem during Sunday’s 500, but no one can say that Nascar didn’t do everything they could to put on the best show over the last two weeks they could. I think they should be congratulated on all fronts, (and we won’t even try to hold the track coming up against them.)
 
 
Danica Patrick made her first appearances in both the ARCA series and the Nationwide and, for those that really didn’t think she would be able to compete … well… I think maybe they should reconsider. She showed she is more than a pretty face and that she can handle a race car. I think there was more marketing hype than there would have been with just another “one of the guys” showing up in the series, but this fan thinks she is a great addition to our sport and is looking forward to seeing how she does this coming weekend at Fontana.
 
 
Adding to the feel good atmosphere in Daytona it was great to see a not-so-familiar face and team in Victory Lane. In his first outing (for the second time) as he rejoined Chip Ganassi and the EGR organization after four years with Roush, Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 with Dale Earnhardt Jr finishing second. The only thing that would have made more people happy would have been to see Dale Jr finishing at the front of the pack and taking the checkered flag. I can think of no one who I thought was less likely to win than Jamie McMurray and I can think of no better ending than the one we had this year. Two really deserving people in Nascar are Chip Ganassi and Jamie McMurray and it was good to see them win.
 
 
Personally, (and this is not criticism, just an observation), but it is my opinion the best move Chip Ganassi made was to switch to Chevrolets last year. After that move, I noticed that Juan Pablo Montoya began to perform better. Some would say it was just he was better accustomed to racing in Cup but I beg to differ. He already had a year of Cup under his belt and it seemed that when they made the move to Chevys, teamed up with Earnhardt Racing and had the Earnhardt/Childers power under the hood, things began to move in a completely different direction for them. Of course I’m a Chevy guy from a long time ago, but, I observed this not-so-sudden turn around right away. Of course, all of those moves were good ones for Ganassi Racing, wouldn’t you agree?
 
 
If Dale Jr wins a few races, makes the Chase and finishes high in the standings or even takes his first Championship in Cup, many will probably say NASCAR is saved from oblivion, (I say this since last year many of the media critics and doomsayers often repeated the phrase, “If only Dale Jr would do better, NASCAR would be better off.)
 
Now, don’t get me wrong… I like Dale Jr even though I have a different “favorite”. I do not, however, think that all of NASCAR revolves around the single person of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is a great talent and lives in the shadow of his dad, Dale Sr, one of the all time greats in NASCAR. That is a lot of pressure in itself, but he is a great talent and a great individual in his own right. His popularity comes not only from being the son of Dale Earnhardt Sr., but from being WHO he is, himself. I hope he has a great year just because he is a great racer, along with a lot of others that show up every weekend.
 
Well, if the rest of the 2010 NASCAR Racing season turns out anything like the last two weeks in Daytona, Look out! This could absolutely be one of the most exciting years NASCAR fans have enjoyed in a while. I am looking forward to it with even more enthusiasm than I did last year, (and that was a lot.)
 
 
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 17, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

www.podcastnorm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2010 Nascar Season; Slightly Larger Restrictor Plates and the Gatorade Duels Yield Some of Daytona’s Best Racing In A Long Time…

 

 Okay… I admit it. I just may have been wrong. The Gatorade Duels at Daytona proved to be some of the best Nascar racing we’ve seen in a long time and I expected them to be quite a bit different. I expected the racing to be good, but, the part I didn’t expect was the lack of accidents. After the way “Speed Weeks” started and has gone over the last week and a half, I never expected there not to be at least one “Big One” in one of the two “Duels”, (or possibly even in both.)
 
Instead of big accidents taking out large numbers of the field in one quick moment we, as Nascar fans, were treated to aggressive and close racing, bump-drafting without much incident and the end result being two of the closest finishes seen in a long time; (I think I heard someone say that the total time separating first and second in both races combined was around two- one hundredths of a second.) No matter how you look at it, the width of a splitter just isn’t that much difference.
 
The Ford fans should have gained a little hope that their teams may be on track to better performance in the 2010 season. The performance of the Fords was impressive and this may be a year that the Roush and Petty teams put a better fight against the Chevys than they did last year. Honestly though, I don’t think they should get their hopes to high just yet. If you recall, last year Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 and followed up with winning the next week in Fontana. That was definitely not the way the rest of the year went for him, the Roush teams, or any other Ford, Toyota or Dodge Team. The rest of the year was basically all Chevy and especially Hendrick Chevys. (Hey, just trying to keep things in perspective.)
 
So, what was the big difference with the Gatorade Duels? Why was the racing so good and the finish so close?
 
Well… it depends on who you ask? There are several opinions on the subject, any one of which are valid.
 
If you ask the Childers teams, it is the hard work they put in last year and gains they made in the latter part of 2009, (and they would be right.)
 
The Toyota teams would probably mention the fact that they ran well most of last year, they just has some bad luck, (and they would also be right.)
 
The Dodges… well… they had a year of building (although this fan doesn’t know what it was they were building.)
 
I guess if we really look at it closely, it was all of the above and some of the changes NASCAR made in the rules. The bigger restrictor plate helped, with the horsepower it added, allowing some throttle response by the drivers instead of just holding it wide open and hoping for the best. Another thing would be the relaxation of the bump-drafting rules and allowing the drivers to “be in control” and responsible for their actions, (and some say policing themselves.) There were also some other things, like changes to the set up of the suspensions for the Super Speedways that NASCAR dictates and they all played a part.
 
From this fan’s view, it was a little of everything and it looks like it was all good. This could very well be one of the best Daytona 500 races in a long time, if the Duels tell us anything at all about how the Sunday race will go.
 
So who do I think will win? I think this is one of the hardest races to actually pick a winner for. I suppose a lot of fan’s are hoping it will be the return of Dale Earnhardt Jr to victory lane and that is a very real possibility. I think Jimmy Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and the Bush brothers all have a chance.
 
My personal pick for the trip to Victory Lane is, Jeff Gordon. A lot has to go right for that to happen and, as I said, I think this one is anybody’s guess.
 
From this Nascar fan’s view, anything can happen and just about anybody in the field has a chance to win Sunday’s Daytona 500. I think the race is going to be one of the best and closest in recent history and full of surprises throughout the day… and, by the way, I’m still expecting at least one “Big One” before the checkered flag falls, but hey, that’s just this fan’s opinion and Restrictor Plate racing… What do you think will happen?
 
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 12, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nascar at Daytona – 2010: Will the Carnage Continue?

 

 
Rusty NormanThe Bud Shootout Opens the 2010 Nascar Season and the Gatorade Duels Are Next…
 
The Budweiser Shootout opened the 2010 Nascar season even though it isn’t a points race and has very little to do with the actual season. In fact I would go so far as to say it won’t tell us much about Daytona 500 or who will win it, either. From this fan’s view, one thing we probably should look for this coming Sunday would be a return to more accidents and maybe even more than one of the “Big Ones”. I really think the Gatorade Duels on Thursday will tell us a lot more about which of the teams may have an advantage going into Sunday’s race.
 
The Shootout definitely showed how aggressive the drivers can be, (which it does just about every year), and how they might handle the slight relaxation of some of the rules. It was a good warm up for the teams and drivers that were qualified to be in it. Even though most probably won’t be running their Shootout car on Thursday or Sunday, most of the drivers were happy to knock a little of the rust off of their Super Speedway driving talents and showed, once again, they were chomping at the bit to get the season under way … and soon.
 
It will be interesting, from this fan’s view, to see how many more Cup teams may have to move to backups after the Duels tomorrow. As I said, I don’t see the carnage letting up… If anything, I’m expecting more of the same of what we’ve witnessed so far. Yessir, it’s shaping up to be quite a “Speed Weeks.”
 
One thing is certain so far. No one will deny the fact that a lot of racing equipment has been torn up and many of the drivers have had to revert to backup cars. It has just been a little rough so far and, personally, I don’t see the carnage letting up. The practice sessions have had more than few altercations and some of the same people have been involved in more than one. All of this action hasn’t been just limited to the Sprint Cup side, either. The ARCA race tried their best to be a “wreck-fest”, and the Camping World Trucks and Nationwide Series have yet to run their races. Who knows what will happen in them…?
 
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 10, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nascar 2009: Looking Back At Last Season – Part 2

Rusty NormanA Quick Review and Thoughts On the 2009 Nascar Season
 
Part 2
 
The 2009 NASCAR season wasn’t without it’s feel good moments and surprises. There were many throughout the year. What follows are some of the high points of the season from this Fan’s View…
 
No one expected the Roush teams to perform as poorly as they did in 2009, especially since Carl Edwards looked so strong at the end of the 2008 Season. With the way the 2009 season began, it did look as though the Roush teams were going to the ones to beat, led by Matt Kenseth and the 17 team, with wins at Daytona and Fontana, but their fortunes quickly turned after Fontana and all the Roush teams struggled quite a bit during most of the rest of the season.
 
Shortly after that, all eyes turned toward Kyle Bush and his chances for taking the Sprint Cup. He did prove to be a strong contender for part of the year but he also faded by the end of the season. Overall, he had a great season in Nationwide and Trucks, but did struggle a bit in Cup.
 
Probably one of the biggest surprises for the year was the performance of the Stewart/Haas teams. I really don’t think anyone expected them to perform as well as they did, but it just goes to show you never know what’s going to happen in NASCAR. After the middle of the year, it looked like Tony Stewart was going to walk away with his third Cup title (and do it in his first year as an Owner/Driver.) As it turned out, they stumbled a bit in The Chase and never quite recovered enough to get back in the hunt for the Title. An interesting side note about the Stewart/Haas teams is that both of their cars were in The Chase in this first year with Tony as Owner/Driver. I don’t think anyone expected that.
 
The next biggest surprise to me was Mark Martin’s strong year. I don’t think even he expected to finish the year the way he did, especially with the way the year started for him and his #5 team. Even though they were performing well in the early races, it seemed something always managed to reach out and bite them and the result being them finishing in the middle to the rear of the pack. By the time they reached Phoenix, it all began to fall together for him and crew chief, Allan Gustafson. As it turned out, they won a total of four races and finished 2nd in The Chase behind now 4 time (in a row) Cup Champion, Jimmy Johnson.
 
Dale Earnhardt Jr’s struggles continued all through the 2009 season and I’m sure it wasn’t a year he wants to look back on for any length of time. Whatever could go wrong seemed to as he missed being in the Chase once again. Even the crew chief change during the year didn’t make much difference to the way his year was going. It appeared to be one of those years that comes along now and again for everyone in racing; even when you do everything right, something always manages to go wrong.
 
Except for Dale Jr’s #88 team, Hendrick Motor Sports had an outstanding year. If you count the Stewart/Haas teams (running Hendrick equipment) and three of the Hendrick teams themselves, Rick Hendrick had five cars in the Chase. Of those five, his 48, 5 and 24 teams finished 1-2-3 in the Chase for the 2009 season. That is an amazing feat considering how tight the competition is in NASCAR these days. They definitely were a step ahead of the rest for most of the year.
 
Michael Waltrip Racing had some bright points in 2009 and it looks as though his organization has turned the corner and is going to be more competitive than in the recent past. David Reutimann even pulled off a victory for MWR in a rain shortened race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. To quote several racers, including owner Michael Waltrip on the way it ended, “A wins a win. All that matters is being in the right place at the right time.”
 
Another bright spot of the year was Marcos Ambrose. Although I know there are some that aren’t all that fond of him, he definitely gained a lot of fans and supporters with the way he performed for most of the year. Now don’t get me wrong, he didn’t have a stellar year but he did have a very good year. He proved he can race with the best in the world and he does it with a smile on his face and his upbeat outlook causes eruptions of laughter just about anywhere he goes. We’ll talk more about him in the coming weeks and months I am sure.
 
As I said earlier, all in all, this fan thinks the 2009 season for NASCAR was a much better year than anyone expected it to be. There was a lot more good going on than bad and even though the media types kept on trying their best to run it down, NASCAR came out on top once again, (just like they always seem to do.) They instituted some changes that made for more excitement for the fans and the drivers didn’t disappoint either. In many ways, I think NASCAR 2009 was one of the best seasons yet… but that’s just this fan’s view…
 
See ya next time… Rusty
© February 5, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nascar 2009: Looking Back at Last Season – Part 1

 

Rusty NormanA Quick Review and Thoughts On the 2009 Nascar Season
 
Part 1
 
Before we move into the 2010 NASCAR season, I’d like to take a quick review of the 2009 season. Although I know there will be those that disagree with me, overall, I think the 2009 NASCAR season went much better than many expected and it was a very good year for NASCAR. They once again proved they can weather the storms we all face in one way or another. That’s the reason I think a quick review of the 2009 season IS in order.
 
Thinking back, the season started off with a lot hesitation on the part of many people  about just how good the racing would be and whether or not there would be enough cars to fill the 43 car field every race weekend.
 
As we know now, every race was filled with 43 cars and the economic situation caused a new wrinkle to appear in the way some of those teams that made the Cup races week in and week out competed. That new wrinkle was a thing called start-and-park. It was a way for teams with less money to be better able to compete regularly and still keep their expenses down.
 
Of course that particular wrinkle was met with mixed emotions by fans and others and was the subject of conversation over many weeks. I guess that’s the price that must be paid. With the purses paying so well for a car to make the race and finish 43rd, it is no wonder that some of those “poorer” teams would try and minimize their expenses while maximizing their take for making at least one lap. That meant they were saving money on tires, fuel and engines. Although the grumbles continued, no-one could blame them for what they did, and it was fairly predictable especially by the end of the season who was going to be dropping out after running a few laps.
 
In this fan’s opinion, one of the best things NASCAR did to improve the racing in 2009 was institute the double-file restart, “Shootout Style”– (Geez, I hate that phrase) – and it really did make for more interesting racing. Personally, I was ecstatic to see it be put into practice and never understood why it took them so long to do it. It certainly did add a new dimension to the races, especially restarts near the end of a race. More than once, it had more than a minimal effect on the outcome of the race.
 
The Super-speedways of Daytona and Talledega continued to have their share of complaints from the fans, drivers and crews. In an attempt to keep everyone up on the racing surface of the track, (as opposed to far down on the aprons), NASCAR kept the yellow line rule intact along with some “refinements” that didn’t make life any simpler for anyone involved. The fans are split almost down the middle on liking rule, especially when their driver seems to benefit from it more than the others do. From this fan’s view, the drivers particularly don’t like it unless they benefit from it; (for example, Brad Keselowski likes it but, Carl Edwards doesn’t like it or restrictor plate races much at all.)
 
One of the “refinements” was particularly noticeable at Talledega and drew a lot of complaints from many of the drivers. I’m sure you remember the change in the “bump-drafting” rules, especially later in the year’s competition. It seemed to this fan, NASCAR wanted to stop, or at least, slow down the ability of two cars hooking up and pulling away from the rest of the pack. It was pretty obvious, when the right two cars hooked up, it was “Katie bar the door” for the rest of the competition. The right match-up allowed those two cars to gain upwards of at least 4 – 5 miles per hour on the other competition. On a Super-speedway with restrictor plates, that amount of speed over the rest made it possible for them to come from way back in the pack and even pass the leaders in short order. (Of course there were drawbacks once they got out front, too.)
 
Well, that’s enough on the subject of some of the technical side of NASCAR for 2009. In Part 2, we’ll review some of the high points and surprises on the people side of NASCAR 2009…
 
See ya next time… Rusty
© February 3, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
www.podcastnorm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counting Down to Daytona 2010


 

Hello everybody and welcome to NASCAR Fan’s View, the new home of what you previously knew as, “Just A Fan’s View”. We are excited to be here and are looking forward to the 2010 NASCAR racing season. If you are new to us, you can check out our old address at:

> Just A Fan’s View <

Yeah, I know I’m jumping the gun a little bit and everything isn’t quite ready for “prime-time”, but, I just couldn’t wait to get settled into our new site and get ready for the new NASCAR season. I am excited about some of the new things we are going to be doing over the coming weeks and I hope you will be too. We are going to expand our talking points to include the Trucks and Nationwide series as well as the Cup. We also want you to be more involved and hope you will at least leave us your comments in the box below every post. Not only that but we intend to have a call-in number so you can leave us your verbal comments about whatever trips your trigger every week and some will be worked into the weekly blogcast. (Now, don’t get to bent out of shape; we won’t air vulgar, obscene or outrageous critical comments. I believe in self control and if you can’t say it without all the bad language, you might as well keep it to yourself ’cause no one else is going to hear it, at least not through us.) Anyway, we hope you will like the plans we have for this year and that you will be involved along with us with your opinions and comments.