Cup Teams Take On Their Longest Race from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams take on stock car racing’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, on one of the racing world’s longest days at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Of course all racing fans know the three I’m talking about are The Grand Prix of Monaco, The Indy 500 and The Coca-Cola 600 and it definitely makes for a full day with three different types of racing. Some call it a racing enthusiast’s dream day while others just shrug their shoulders, smile and say they’ll be watching one of them or at least checking in on all three during the day.

This weekend we also celebrate Memorial Day weekend and, of the three racing types and venues, it is this fan’s opinion NASCAR is the best at honoring our Troops. Also in my opinion, they do a fine job of recognizing the importance of those that serve in the Armed Services and those that gave their lives protecting our country and preserving the freedom we all enjoy and often take for granted. Not only do they support our troops and honor those that gave the supreme sacrifice serving and protecting our country and freedoms but also recognizing and supporting their families and the loss and sorrows they have experienced. My thanks go to those that were willing to make that supreme sacrifice for all of us and particularly for my family. God bless them and the USA.

The Coca-Cola 600 is always an interesting race. NASCAR has made this one a little more interesting by adding another stage to it (there will be four of 100 laps each) and more points to be gained by those that do well in the stages. So let’s see… there were already more laps in this race, more miles and more hours in the seat for the drivers and now there are more stages and more points. Naturally the extra points won’t matter until the playoffs but that hasn’t been something that has held any of them back. It appears all of them are pushing harder to qualify better, run better and get some of those stage points and wins to apply when they get to the playoffs.

Fortunately (or some may say, unfortunately) it appears at least one of the JGR teams showed up ready to make a statement and take home a 600 win. (Of course this fan is sure you know I’m talking about Kyle Bush.) Since he already took home a million dollars, it just stands to reason that he could be one to consider for taking the trip to Victory Lane when this one is over on Sunday night. A closer look at the lineup shows there are three JGR teams starting in the top ten and if you want to consider an associated team too, Martin Truex Jr. is right there also. Daniel Suarez starts from the twentieth position so I’ll let you draw your own conclusion of what kind of overall statement the JGR teams have made. They do look strong and that’s a pretty obvious fact.

So… we have Kyle Bush starting on the front row with pole winner, Kevin Harvick. Does that say even more about which teams to watch for the win when the checkered flag drops on the Coca-Cola 600? But wait a minute; isn’t that Chase Elliott with HMS starting third right behind them? Both the JGR and SHR teams are due for a win and either one of them could make the trip to Victory Lane but there is a whole lot more to it than that. Running strong in the practices and qualifying at, or near the front could always mean something good for a team but not necessarily for the whole 600 miles.

Chase Elliott is definitely due for a win when it comes down to it and he is another one this fan thinks could end up as the winner when all is said and done. Ryan Blaney and Eric Jones also enter into the conversation and it is good to see these young guns being talked about so often as ones to watch and possible winners. After all, these guys are definitely the future of the sport and they represent themselves and their families well.

The Coca-Cola 600 is a long race and goes from evening into the night. This fan has to admit that in the past, it usually didn’t really get interesting until the final 100 miles or even less and if someone has a night like Martin Truex Jr. had in last year’s, well, it can seem relatively uneventful. In fact, some have even gone so far as to call it boring; something this fan doesn’t necessarily agree with but does understand what they mean. It is the hope the addition of the Stages to the mix will add what they have added to the racing so far this season.

With the addition of the Stages the racing has been a bit more intense and it does break up the monotony of 600 miles with only one checkered flag and a long waiting game. The drivers have much more incentive to push a little harder and can gain points toward the playoffs for finishing near the front or winning one or all of the Stages. In the end, it still comes down to winning that final stage and that is usually when the cream rises to the top. It could be one of the young guns or one of the seasoned veterans. It could be someone completely unexpected or it could be, well… you know…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 27, 2017 – 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 All Stars Racing For A Million from Just A Fan’s View

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There is absolutely nothing on the line for the drivers and teams taking to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR All Star race Saturday night. Well, that is unless you consider the winner will walk away with a cool million dollars. Since there are no points to gain and not much else offered for the nights work, I guess racing to possibly win a million dollars IS incentive enough to do what it takes to end up as the winner. I know it would be for me and I’m guessing it would be for you too. I do have admit, there is something awfully enticing and motivating to do something you really love and possibly make a million dollars in the process.

Because it is mostly about the money and not much else other than bragging rights likely explains why it is such a wide open race. If past All Star races tell us anything as fans, this one will probably not be any different and it should prove to be a very interesting night of competition. Some of them have ended quite dramatically in the past, with cars, car parts and some with varying forms of damage strewn all along the path to the flag stand and beyond. It never ceases to amaze this fan what some of the drivers will try or do to win that million dollar prize. (Sometimes I think they even surprise themselves.)

So what does it take for a driver to make it into the Monster Energy All Star race? Well that is a very interesting question and though many of you may know the answer, I will answer for those that may not be familiar with the process or, at least, are new to NASCAR or just a casual fan. It may sound a bit complicated but trust me, it really isn’t. So here we go…

For a driver to qualify for being in the All Star race several factors are considered. First of all, they have to be an active driver in the Cup series and, at the time of this writing, there are sixteen drivers locked in. They either have to be past winners from the 2016/2017 season or past All Star winners or series champions. If they are none of the above, they will compete in the Open which will consist of three stages. Two of those stages will be 20 laps in length and the final stage is 10 laps. The winner of each of the three stages qualifies to be in the All Star race. After that, there is one final driver that will qualify to be in the All Star race and that will be the one voted in by the fans.

That’s what makes the Open so intense. If a driver doesn’t win one of the three stages, he (or she) won’t make the big one and will miss a chance to win the Million dollars. Another thing about this late afternoon and evening of racing is that a fan does have a chance at winning a million dollars and that is if Kevin Harvick wins the cool million for the Monster Energy All Star race. Gee… that doesn’t sound like it puts any extra pressure on Harvick, does it? Oh well, that’s just another thing about this race – it is all about the fans (and of course, the money…)

There are a few things about this race that make it interesting and one of those is that they all practice in the heat of the day and the All Star race takes place in the cooler temperatures of the evening into the night. That means the crew chief and engineers have to make decisions about setup and if they miss it, well, their driver may not have much of a chance at winning, especially if they miss it big. On the other hand, if they miss it, take big swings at it and make their driver happy, they put themselves back in the hunt for that million dollar payoff. Now that really doesn’t sound all that complicated, does it? Well don’t forget to throw in the three twenty lap stages and the ten lap final stage along with that different tire with the green lettering. Even the rules for using that will make it very interesting from this fan’s view.

There is no doubt in my mind that this could be one of the most intense and dramatic All Star races that we as fans have witnessed in while. The addition of the stages has definitely added something to the racing so far this season and I expect it will be the same tonight when they take the green flag to get started. One thing about the All Star race is it has always been flat out once the green drops and, with the stages set the way they are, they all know it will be twenty laps to make it to the front in all of them except the last one. Remember… this is all about the money they are racing for. That million dollar prize is all this is about. There are no points – just money – and it only goes to the winner and his team.

When it comes down to those last ten laps for the million dollars, it could prove to be very exciting and emotional. In the past, there have been some very interesting things tried to try and be the one taking the checkered flag and the million dollars. Sometimes it gets pretty rough and sometimes it gets messy but it is always exciting and it is one time it is never over until it is over. That means, at least from this fans view, there could be a big one at the finish or an unexpected winner – it is hard to tell. All I know is it is always worth watching to the very end. Well… that is except when one of the drivers runs away from the rest in those final few laps. Then it is actually over before it ends and that isn’t what this fan is hoping for the way this one ends…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 20, 2017 – 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

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

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Ah… There’s just nothing like the feeling of returning to the roots of Saturday Night under the lights. That’s when many of us local racers did our track time and it was always something we looked forward to, whether to race or to watch. It is always an interesting event when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams take to the track under the lights and just like at the local tracks, everything looks different. The cars look different, the track looks different and just about everythin g about it has a different feel.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Sunday afternoon racing but Saturday night is what I grew up with along with many of you and there is always something special about it. (Well, at least it is special to me and a lot of friends and fellow racers I know.) Once you’ve been there – especially as a driver or a fan – it seems there is a magnetism that continuously draws you back; whether it was before I was old enough to drive or after, I looked forward to those Saturday nights under the lights.

So… is there anything different about the Kansas Speedway that may affect the way the drivers attack the race Saturday night? Well, yes and no. The track is another year older so the surface is that much more aged but I don’t think that will have that great of an effect on them. This year’s lower down force package should have some effect but most of the teams seem to be adapting to it quite nicely as the season progresses so, from this fan’s view, I don’t think that will be that big a deal to them either.

Now the fact that Goodyear brought a different tire for this race may be one of the things that has a greater effect than most of the other things just mentioned. I don’t think the tire will be problem but it does mean they have to adjust to it and that could make a bigger difference than if it was one they used before at Kansas. Even when it is a tire they have tested at the track, there can be things about it that unexpectedly show up as the race progresses towards the finish. From my view, I don’t think it will be a problem at all but it could be simply because of the unknowns.

Another thing that might be a little bit of a challenge for the drivers and teams is that their practices were in the daytime and the race is in the evening into the night. That generally means different track temps and higher speeds which generally translates into different tire pressures which possibly affects the ride heights. That might have the greatest effect after pit stops and the first couple of laps after a restart. If it turns out to make a difference, be expecting some spins and possible wall banging; if nothing else something like that could have a greater effect on who wins and who doesn’t.

Although many think this might be the week the JGR teams make an entry into the win column, this fan isn’t so sure. It’s not that they’ve been performing all that badly but they definitely haven’t found the speed and balance combination that led to their more dominate performances last season. They’re still looking for some speed and lack of mistakes by the drivers and pit crews which could lead to a victory. Since the season is hitting several 1½ mile tracks and those have been their strongest point in the past, it is possible they could take a win or two soon but I don’t think it will be here at Kansas. (Hey… that’s just this fan’s opinion. You may feel differently but, well, you’re not writing this… heh, heh!)

One of the biggest reasons this fan thinks it won’t be a JGR Toyota that shows up in Victory Lane Saturday night is because of how strong the Fords have looked. I mean, look who’s sitting on the pole for the Go Bowling 400, Ryan Blaney. It is his first pole in Cup and he was fast even off the truck. Add to that there are five Fords starting in the top ten along with three Toyotas and only two Chevys. To say the Fords don’t have a good shot at taking another win just doesn’t make sense but stranger things have happened recently.

Martin Truex Jr. could be the Toyota that makes me wrong and he has had pretty strong performances all season so far. Since he and his team are associated with JGR, I guess it could mean a Toyota could end up in Victory Lane but that’s just not the way it looks from this fan’s view. I may end up being totally wrong about it being a Ford taking the win and it turn out to be someone like a Hendrick or Ganassi Chevy which wouldn’t surprise me at all. Names like Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson or even Chase Elliott do come to mind but I’m just not ready to give it to them yet.

Now, everything I just mentioned can and probably will change when all forty of the cars take to the track and the “stage” racing takes over with its intensity and drama. When it’s all over, it could be a relative unknown or it could be a repeat winner celebrating in Victory Lane. I’m just not sure which it will be but one thing is certain; the one that wins is going to have to work for it…

(And by the way, what’s up with all of those cars that couldn’t get through inspection in time to make qualifying? Man, talk about adding unknowns into the mix for the Go Bowling 400…)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 12, 2017 – 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

Talladega from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Talladega is big. Talladega is wide. Talladega is fast; so fast in fact, it is the biggest reason NASCAR has restrictor plates. As has been mentioned by just about everyone over the past week leading up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Geico 500, this Super Speedway is the place back in 1987 where the fastest field in NASCAR history took to the track. That year, the whole field qualified at over 200 mph and Bill Elliott set the record qualifying time of over 212 mph.

It was also the year that Bobby Allison’s car blew a tire on the front straight and took flight into the fence near the flag stand and had it not been for the fence his car would have flown into the spectators sitting in the stands. It was then that NASCAR determined they needed to look at the speeds the cars were traveling and what could happen when they were turned in a direction other than the direction they should be facing. So… on the Super Speedways of Daytona and Talladega they made restrictor plates mandatory.

The way this fan remembers the transition to when restrictor plates came into the mix of racing at the Super Speedways, it opened a whole new world of racing to the field and fans of Stock Car Racing called NASCAR. It was no longer just about speed but being able to use drafting and strategy along with, but more than just the speed of the race cars. It also became more of racing with someone that could assist in staying with the draft like teammates or others that wanted to move in, around or through the field to the front. Of course it made pit strategy and performance of the pit crews all the more important and sometimes these alone could change the face of the outcome of the races.

Now NASCAR has added stage racing to the mix and, once again in this fan’s opinion, it has changed the way the drivers race during the race. Stages have added an unexpected intensity and drama to the races at all tracks so far but has made the restrictor plate races more interesting and dramatic also. This fan finds it interesting how adding the ability to gain a few points for what is now called the playoffs has caused the drivers to race more aggressively to gain those points and has made even 500 mile restrictor plate races all the more interesting.

If you’ve been following this NASCAR fan’s view for any time at all, you already know I like restrictor plate racing and like the fact that it makes for much closer and intense racing. Although the drivers still do sometimes fall into racing single file for a number of laps during the race, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

In some ways, it reminds me of my own racing days at our local short tracks and how much fun it was to run door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper for laps at a time. I even remember some races we ran (usually in the heat races) that the pack of cars never changed positions; we ran exactly the way we lined up and finished that way too. (I also remember how some of us faster cars helped some of the drivers go faster than they had ever gone as we pushed them to their limits trying to get an opening to pass them and move out front. For some of them it was a completely new experience and, because we were all tightly packed together, they could run that fast without losing control. It was great for all of us, including the fans.) Ah well… so much for reminiscing of my old racing days…

As far as the plate racing at Talladega this weekend, pretty much everything is the same as it was the last time the teams competed here. The tires are the same and the cars are the same so the only real change from last time is the addition of the Stages. If this one goes anything like the first Super Speedway race this season with stages at Daytona, it should add a bit of a new dimension and feel as the laps click off. For one, there will be two stages the entire field will be trying to win other than the final one. Because of the nature of plate racing that means any one of the cars in the field could win one or both and you can bet they will all be running hard to try and do so. The intensity won’t let up in the final stage either because all of them will going for the win in that one too. (Or course it pays much better than the other two.)

Unfortunately, another well known fact of plate racing is the possibility of one or more “Big Ones” happening during the course of any of the three Stages. Because restrictor plates cause the field to generally stay in tighter packs (or even one big one) for long periods of time during the event, there is always the possibility of something happening to cause one or more cars to get together and be taken out. All it takes is one wrong move or one blown tire to cause a great deal of mayhem that can ruin one or many driver’s day. When it comes down to the final laps of any of the stages, the aggression and intensity to finish first seems to always cause a dramatic several laps and sometimes, unfortunately, the Big One happens.

There are several favorites talked about for taking the trophy home when this one is over. Of course it seems the Penske teams of Keselowski and Logano are at or near the top of that list along with a long list of names like Johnson, Bowyer, Hamlin, Harvick and Kenseth from other teams. This is a race that even some unknown (or not often mentioned) driver can end up with the win and may be their first win in cup. (It wouldn’t be the first time that happened…)

Probably everyone’s favorite to win would be Dale Jr. and I have to admit, it would be good to see him win. I’m not saying he or any of the ones I did mention will win but, like all plate races in the past, this one could be won by anyone in the field and that includes Dale Jr…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 7, 2017 – 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

Richmond, Dale Jr. and NASCAR Cup from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

The big news this week wasn’t about the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams taking on their next challenge at Richmond International Raceway and it was hardly even mentioned how Jimmie Johnson won his second race in a row. It wasn’t about how many penalties were handed down in different ways since the races at Texas and Martinsville or how many different crew chiefs there are for this weekend. No, the big news (just in case you’ve been completely out of touch or had your head in the sand since last Monday’s race) is that Dale Jr. is going to retire at the end of the 2017 season…

Yeah, I know that’s not new news to you if you’re a real NASCAR fan but it is true. Dale Jr. announced his plan for retirement on Tuesday and the news has been received and reacted to in diverse ways. It has been spoken of as the “end of NASCAR” and some have even threatened to stop following NASCAR all together since there will no longer be a well known Earnhardt competing in the Cup series. (Well… even that’s not quite true since Jeffrey Earnhardt does compete at the present time even though not all that well known other than by name at the present time.

So… here are my thoughts on NASCAR’s most popular driver for the last 14 years and his retirement. First of all let me say something that won’t mean a great deal to many younger fans but I’ve been a NASCAR fan for longer than Junior has been alive. That’s a long time (just in case you’re wondering) and I’ve had a number of favorite drivers and not all of them have been NASCAR champs but all have been champions in my opinion. I won’t go into a long dissertation about any of them at this point but there have been many.

I have to admit when Dale Jr. came into Cup I wasn’t really a fan but I did follow his progress, maturity and growth. Even though I felt he was rough around the edges and didn’t really have grip on who he really was when he was younger, I have watched him become more and more of a driver and person that I like. I like the fact that he is real these days (what you see is what you get) and he has a lot of common sense. I guess I could go into a long monologue of what I like about him now as compared to 20 years ago. I can’t say there haven’t been others I wasn’t particularly fond of when they came in to Cup but my opinion of them did change as they changed.

I felt that way about Jeff Gordon when he left his Busch team to join Hendrick Motorsports. I wasn’t that much of a fan of his for about a year or so. Much of my thinking about his move was based on very little information about him. I thought he kind of left his team in a lurch and with very little warning and I thought it was unfair to them and I just didn’t like it. My perception was based on my opinion of him at the time but I was still very impressed by him and his abilities as he drove. But even at that time it didn’t take all that long for me to become a Jeff Gordon fan. I was a Jeff Gordon until he retired and I am still a fan of Jeff Gordon and what he accomplished in his career as a driver and since his retirement.

Maybe that’s why I have watched Dale Jr’s. career with a lot of interest and why I have come to appreciate him more and more over the years, especially since his dad died in that terrible racing accident at Daytona and how he has grown from that time. Besides, he’s not leaving NASCAR completely, he’s just moving away from visibility as a driver and I expect we will see and hear a lot from him in the years ahead.

Richmond International Raceway is a tough ¾ mile track and is fast and a test of a driver’s ability. One of the nice things about it is that it isn’t just a one groove race track. They’ll be able to run the low groove, the middle and the high, even right up next to the wall. Even when they miss their marks, they have a little bit of room to catch it without taking out the person next to them or the ones they’re trying to pass. One of the interesting things about this race is this year’s lower down force package. It has made for new challenges and interesting communications between drivers and crew chiefs and the one thing the drivers have asked for most is more grip. They want more of it just about everywhere on the track. They’re not necessarily going to be getting it but it hasn’t stopped them asking for it so far.

So… will this be the weekend the JGR Toyotas finally make the trip to Victory Lane? Well, Matt Kenseth did win the pole and it is a place where Denny Hamlin performs well at. I’m not so sure that’s making a statement and I’m not so sure it will translate into a trip to Victory Lane when the checkered flag drops at the end of the day. It is food for thought though. But then so is the fact that Kyle Larson has been on a roll and was fast during practices, especially the last one on Saturday.

I wonder if Dale Jr. might take home the trophy when this one is over. He has to have lot less pressure on him now that he’s made his announcement but I think he wants to win more now than ever. It does remain to be seen how the Hendrick teams will fare and there is no way this fan is going to rule out the possibility of Jimmie Johnson making it three in a row. Well… maybe that is expecting a bit too much… BUT… it can definitely happen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 29, 2017 – 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 Bristol Baby!!” from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well, it’s back to racing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams and there’s not a better place for them to return to work than Bristol. It should prove to be interesting to see how the drivers respond to their return after a week off to “rest and relax.” Some say the tensions will be high simply because “It’s Bristol, Baby!!” and it’s known for high banks, high speed and high emotions. Personally, I can’t disagree – the racing at Bristol does get intense at times.

One of the things that makes Bristol one of the more intense races is that it is basically a short track – only a little over a half mile oval – which carries with it that short track racing attitude. Emotions run high because it is extremely fast and very hard to pass. It doesn’t matter whether they run the middle, high or low groove, it’s just a hard place to pass if a driver has just a little bit of a better car than the one in front of him (or her). That just adds to the heightened emotions and frustrations of trying to gain positions as they work their way to the checkers. Plus – being a “short track” – the mentality of the drivers is a little different and bumping and banging or moving someone out of the way isn’t outside the realm of their thinking. In fact, it happens a lot more on short tracks and particularly at tracks like Martinsville and Bristol.

Taking just a little bit of a detour right now, I guess it’s about time I make my view of stage racing public even though I have mentioned it a little off and on so far this season. When push comes to shove, I wasn’t sure I would like it all that much. I mean I understood the idea of it but I wasn’t so sure it would work out the way NASCAR and the drivers thought it would. I have to admit, it has added quite a bit of intensity to the races and it doesn’t matter whether it is short track, mid size or super speedway. All of them have seen the intensity and added pressure for the drivers to perform at all times during the race. Of course adding the ability to gain additional points for the new playoff format at the end of the season doesn’t hurt either.

All of the things I’ve mentioned so far just add to the usual intensity of a short track race and with the drivers being fresh off of a weekend off just means some possible thoughts of payback and a little more adrenaline for all kinds of short track actions. You never know how one of them is going to respond to a little nudge or a bump if it is someone they might have had a little run in with earlier in the season. (Hey, I’m just sayin’…)

With the way things have gone so far this season, it does appear the younger drivers like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney have adapted to the new stage racing format a little better than some of the rest. In fact, there are a lot of people that have shown up in the conversation more with the stage racing than they did last season. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse and others are names we just didn’t hear that much during a race without the stages. Now, it seems everyone presses to at least get some points via the stages and it does make things more interesting.

There are a couple of extra stories going on with the teams coming to Bristol. One obvious one is where the Gibbs racing teams really are. They just haven’t shown up as competitively so far this season as they did much of last season. We all know all of the teams, especially the bigger teams, go through a little slump now and again and it is still early in the season. It is surprising that we just haven’t heard that much from the JGR teams like Kyle Bush, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth yet. I do think we will soon though and it could just be they haven’t hit their stride yet this season with the new down force package and other items all of the teams have been contending with so far.

Jimmie Johnson put to rest the rumors they had lost their edge after he won Texas a couple of weekends ago. He came from the back and put a hurtin’ on the rest of the field even though he didn’t run away with it. Between Chase Elliott and him things don’t look all that dark for Hendrick but it does leave Dale Jr. and Kasey Kahne looking for better performances and this fan does wonder why they are struggling as much as they are. I guess they’re just adjusting to the new down force package too. (Well, at least I’m giving them a good excuse for their lack of performance so far…)

It is hard for me as a fan to pick one over another as a winner this weekend. Many have stated their choices but I just don’t have a real grasp on how this one is going to turn out. It could be another first time winner or it could be one that we just haven’t heard that much from yet this season. I guess that’s why I will be watching this one and wait to see who comes out on top. After all… It IS Bristol, Baby!!!

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 21, 2017 – 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

New Surface, New Challenges at Texas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There are a few things that have changed at the Texas Motor Speedway but the speed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams run at hasn’t. Okay, maybe that is a little bit overstated but, no matter how you look at it, the Texas track is still one of the fastest on the NASCAR circuit. That doesn’t mean that the changes they made to it haven’t caused the teams to re-evaluate their notes and notebooks for the place but they are still making fast laps around the place. It also doesn’t mean the drivers don’t have to adjust their driving style to match the new surface and re-designed turns one and two. Both the new surface and re-design have caused situations for most if not all of them but it hasn’t really slowed them down that much.

Of course the usual drivers seem to be at the top of the speed lists and Kevin Harvick did win the pole. Brad Keselowski was at the top of the list for the Saturday morning practice and Kyle Larson wasn’t far behind. In the final practice the Hendrick teams of Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott finally showed up at the top but this fan wonders if it’s only because the others were no longer pressing the envelope. (Oh and by the way, let’s not forget Jimmie Johnson has to start at the rear of the field on Sunday due to his spin an after his qualifying lap so he’s going to need all the speed he can muster on Sunday afternoon.)

It certainly was an interesting Friday qualifying session. Several of the known drivers and teams couldn’t get through inspection in time to make qualifying. That means very little unless pit selection makes a big difference for those that didn’t qualify compared to those that did. We all know qualifying isn’t THAT big of a deal except for pit stall selections and it generally doesn’t make a whole lot of difference on race day. One fast lap doesn’t necessarily transfer over to a strong finish over all of the laps on race day.

I also find it interesting that Kyle Larson still looks like he will be running at, or near, the front on Sunday just like he has most of the 2017 season so far. Well, that is as long as he stays out of trouble on the track and doesn’t have trouble in the pits. In fact, he could win this race. I’m not saying he will, I’m just saying he has a good chance if he runs like he has been so far. He has been one of the fastest cars in every practice this weekend but was one of those that didn’t get through inspection in time for qualifying. That means he’ll be starting in the 32 second position and could mean trouble for getting to the front fast. Fortunately for those with fast cars but bad starting positions, it is a long race.

One thing all of the drivers will have to face is what happens when they get just outside of the racing groove. With the new track surface and the lower down-force for the cars this season, many have already shown getting into the grey above the groove just doesn’t work all that well. Well, at least it hasn’t so far this weekend and several have gone to back up cars because of it. That means it will likely be hard to pass if the groove doesn’t widen out. Now, this fan does expect the groove to widen out but it still will be a problem for them until it does.

There is a high possibility that a Ford could end up in Victory Lane by the time the checkered flag drops at the end of the day. Kevin Harvick’s name does come to mind but I can’t rule out Brad Keselowski either. Both have looked strong over the course of the practice sessions and either could end up the winner. It could also be the Fords of either Joey Logano or Ryan Blaney. I’m not pulling for the one but it wouldn’t bother this die hard Chevy fan to see Ryan Blaney end up in Victory Lane – he has looked pretty strong lately and it would surprise me all that much if he did.

Now, at the risk of sounding repetitive, when it comes to the Chevys, I just can’t escape the fact that Kyle Larson has run up front almost every race and he could win another one this week or it could be his team-mate, Jamie McMurray. The Ganassi teams are looking very good and either one or both of these guys could as the winner when it is all said and done.

From this fan’s view, this could be a completely different race than we have seen in recent times at the Texas track. It could be another one of the times someone totally unexpected takes the win or it could be the usual ones rise to the occasion and show why they running at, or near, the front on a regular basis this year. Since the Hendrick Chevys did actually show some speed in the final practice, I won’t rule out the possibility of one of them taking the win. Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott are at the top of my list but I won’t rule out Dale Jr. or Kasey Kahne. (After all, stranger things have happened at Texas…)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 8, 2017 – 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

Short Tracking At Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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One thing is certain from this fan’s view for this weekend’s race; it will be a challenge for every driver. Of course some will adapt and do better than others but, for most of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Drivers and teams, there will be a price paid in wear and tear on the cars, drivers and crews along with the usual heightened emotions of short track racing. Now I ask you… who could ask for more when it comes to racing on a Sunday afternoon?

Martinsville is (and has been) a fan favorite for many years. There’s just something about short track racing the appeals to almost everyone. The drivers like it (at least to a point) because they believe they can have an effect on the outcome by using their talent and abilities. The crews like it (also to a point) because they know they make a difference every time their driver pulls in to the pits. When it comes to the crew chiefs and the car owners, well, they like it BUT…

I have to admit, as a fan, I like it because of all of the things this short track generates as the day progresses. It’s not just one thing; it is many things. It is the action prevalent throughout the race along with the door banging, bumper bumping and the pushing and shoving that keeps the emotions high, especially when it comes down to the final laps of the race. As most any NASCAR fan will attest, that’s when those emotions really surface and can affect the outcome of the race either positively or negatively for the possible winner and, of course, the possible non-winners. (Hey look, I was just trying to avoid calling them losers… ) At any rate, with the addition of the stages and the renewed importance of additional points, this has the potential of being one of the most dramatic races at Martinsville in recent times.

No matter how you look at it, this is not a “usual” year in NASCAR Cup. It has been a year the younger drivers have successfully shown their driving talents in a big way. Kyle Larson is definitely on a roll with his win last week and his top two finishes over the several weeks before. He looks poised to have a very good year and could have a real shot at winning the championship. Now, don’t read anything into what I just said. It is way too early to start picking winners when it comes to the season’s end. I’m just saying he is looking very strong and I personally don’t think He is done winning races yet this season.

I do realize it is still early in the season but the Ganassi teams are definitely making a statement so far this season. Both Larson and McMurray are showing continued strength so far this season and it has carried over from the latter part of last season. From this fan’s view, it is good to see it happening for them but I also know that other teams have a tendency to “catch up” as the season moves along and honestly, summer is coming really fast and it could get very interesting as the weeks click away to mid season. There is still a “whole lotta racing to do” before we wind it all down.

One big surprise to me so far this season is the lack luster performance of the Chevys especially by those from the Hendrick camp. Now I realize that Chase Elliot is one of the Hendrick drivers but he is definitely on a different trajectory than the rest (at least so far.) He is one of the young guns I mentioned earlier that is hitting on all cylinders in this early part of the season. If it weren’t for the performance of Kyle Larson so far this season, I do think we would be hearing a lot more about Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. For the moment though, Kyle Larson is kind of overshadowing everyone but I do expect we will be hearing a lot more from Chase and probably Ryan as we progress through this early part into the middle of the season.

Another surprise so far is the lack of noise coming from the JGR camp. Oh sure, there was that dust up between Kyle Bush and Joey Logano a short while back but other than that, there hasn’t been that much to talk about from the Joe Gibbs’ teams. That could change this weekend and Kyle Bush may be the one to be making the noise. He did look pretty strong in the final practice. There are others that just might surprise us all and make that run to the finish and they’ll be taking home that Grandfather clock for winning the STP 500 at Martinsville. Some of them are previous winners and some of them haven’t won yet, at least no t at Martinsville. From this fan’s view, I do kind of expect Kyle Larson and Kyle Bush to be going for the win but since this is Martinsville, I’m just not sure either one of them is going to be celebrating in Victory Lane when this one is done…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 1, 2017 – 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

The Auto Club 400 At Fontana from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There ain’t nothing gone like I thought it would so far in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. Okay… I got that out of my system for now, but it’s true; none of the races so far in this season have ended at all like just about anyone would have thought they would. It makes this fan wonder if it will be the same this weekend as the Cup teams take on the two mile Auto Club Speedway at Fontana.

Unfortunately, it seems the worst thing a driver can do is dominate a race, at least so far. I’m not trying to make a statement but it has been interesting that a driver has won and, to most any fan’s surprise, it didn’t look as though they had any chance at all as they entered the last ten laps of any of the four races so far this season.

It has been a little bit of a strange weekend at the Auto Club Speedway so far and practice and qualifying showed just how strange things were. Even an owl got into the strangeness and interrupted practice on Friday for a short while. Several cars did not make a qualifying lap and that included Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano. Jimmie Johnson opted out since he had a late incident in practice that caused his team to move to a backup car. Joey Logano just didn’t make it onto the grid in time and will now have to start near the rear on Sunday afternoon also.

From this fan’s view it appears the teams are struggling a bit with the reduced down force package for this season and the character of the track. It is abrasive and many drivers have been calling for more grip. (Of course we all know drivers want more grip everywhere they go.) It does appear this weekend’s race could be a bit more “challenging” than some might think though. It was very obvious during practice and qualifying the cars were moving around a lot on the 2 mile oval and many were a bit tail happy. I think, at least from this fan’s view, this could make for a very interesting afternoon, especially when they get started racing in groups two, three, four and possibly even five wide during the Auto Club 400, especially during any restarts.

Earlier I mentioned several didn’t make any qualifying laps but qualifying really only affects pit selection from my view. At times, it makes a great difference in how things work out for a driver and his team after their pit stop and at other times it makes very little difference at all. On a track like this, track position is very important and their location in the pits can make a bad stop even worse while the reverse can be true with a good one. During this race, pit selection could make or break the chances of someone winning especially during a late race caution or even a late race green flag stop.

Except for Kyle Larson, so far this season the Chevys have shown themselves to be a little behind the rest of the manufacturers and especially the Fords. Of particular interest to this fan – since I used to race Chevys – is the performance of the Hendrick Chevys. Once again, if it weren’t for Chase Elliott, the Hendrick teams just haven’t shown their usual strength. From this fan’s view and if memory serves me correctly, they had a similar slow start last season and that means there is probably no cause for concern for their fans. If things continue on as they have so far though, it just may not be one of their best years. Jimmie Johnson has been up and down and Dale Jr. just hasn’t shown he is fully back into the swing of it all yet. Kasey Kahne is showing improvement but just hasn’t made that many headlines yet. It is unusual but not all that concerning for the Chevys to be a little behind the curve early in the season. After all, the competition is tighter than it has been recently and Ryan Newman did win in his Childers Chevy last weekend.

The big question on most everyone’s mind this weekend is whether or not Kyle Larson will have his fourth second place finish in a row or whether he might be the one taking the trophy instead of being that “also ran.” I’m not willing to make a statement on him winning but I would remind all of us that the dominant car in the first four races has not won yet. Will Kyle dominate and win or will it go as it has so far in 2017? Well… I guess we won’t know that until the checkered flag falls on the winner late Sunday, will we? Personally, I’m thinking this is going to be a good one filled with drama right down to the finish, how about you…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 25, 2017 – 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 Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams take on the one mile track at Phoenix this Sunday afternoon and it seems like the biggest story for the weekend so far is what happened between Kyle Bush and Joey Logano last weekend. In typical fashion, the media folks just can’t seem to let it go and keep on asking the same old questions of whether or not the two have put it all behind them. From this fan’s view, I just think they should take a wait and see attitude and if something happens between them, well, then they will have their answers (and probably a whole lot more to talk about.)

From this fan’s view, Joey Logano certainly does seem to have a lot of “mixups” with the team members of Joe Gibbs Racing. In particular, he has had one or more on-track incidents with Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and now Kyle Bush. For some reason he seems to benefit from them more at the time than the ones he runs into (or puts out) and then wonders why they don’t understand it was just a hard racing incident. He uses the explanation of he was just racing hard and it got away from him. Although it is possible his statements are true, after so many run-ins with members of the same team, you would think he would at least come up with some other excuse. In my view, he has managed to tick off the whole JGR team and doesn’t understand why they get angry when he often pulls his stunts. (Do I need to remind you of how Matt Kenseth handled his last dust up with him? I think not…)

After their face-to-face meeting in the NASCAR trailer on Friday morning, they both answered questions. I listened to Logano’s statements and it really appeared to me he was still trying to convince everyone he did nothing wrong and it was just a last lap, going for the spot, hard racing mistake. From my view, it seemed he couldn’t see why Kyle couldn’t see that way. Also from my view, I could see why Kyle didn’t see it Joey’s way… and could it be Joey’s past history with others on track and especially with JGR drivers? I think Joey’s past speaks fairly loudly about the answer to that.

As a former racer and fan, I did like Kyle’s answer to all of the questions about whether or not it was all over between them and could they move on. He answered all of the questions with the same answer and from this fan’s view, “Everything’s great…” (If you believe that, you just might be interested in some waterfront property somewhere…) Ah… NASCAR… there’ just nothing like a rivalry along with a little drama and emotion; I think that’s why I like it so much. I also like the way NASCAR handled this one. They left the door open for the two to work it out and yet stand ready to intervene if necessary. (Honestly, I can’t wait to see how it goes as the season progresses…)

Okay, I think I’m done with that, at least for now…

It will definitely be interesting to see how the racing goes with the two 60 lap stages and the final 80 laps to the finish. There is a lot of speculation out there that the stages favor the younger drivers and that is why they are performing at a higher level so far this year. Of course, you know I don’t agree. I just think they’re performing at the level of their talent. Sure, their age may have something to do with it but the ones most talked about are Chase Elliot and Ryan Blaney and they are both in great equipment and have shown a lot of talent as drivers. Could it be because they both come from racing families or does it have to do with the equipment they are in? I think both explain it better than the stages argument but then that’s just this fan’s opinion.

I’m still waiting for the Chevys to show up with something for the rest of the field and especially the Hendrick Chevys. It does look like Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson have stronger cars this season than last and they are both showing up competitively each week. In fact, either one of them could have a chance at taking the win Sunday afternoon.

When it comes to the Hendrick Chevys, Chase Elliot, Dale Jr. and Jimmy Johnson looked to have the best chance this weekend but I’m not counting out Kasey Kahne either. In practice and qualifying, none of them looked too bad but it does remain to be seen how the race pans out for them.

As has been the usual case so far this season, the Ford’s do seem to have a slight advantage. Kevin Harvick is usually at the top of the list but so far, he just hasn’t had the finish. He has led a lot of laps and still not come home the winner yet. I do believe it will happen soon for him though and likely more than once.

Just so the Toyota fans won’t feel left out I have to say they could have a good race this weekend but I still think the JGR Toyotas still have a few things to work out with this new package just like the Hendrick Chevys.

Some say Joey Logano was making a statement about last weekend’s incident by winning the pole for Sunday’s race but this fan sees it just a little bit differently. You see, I kind of expected him to take the pole especially with how he ran at Phoenix last year. It really wasn’t much of a surprise to me and I do know he will probably be one of the ones to watch for taking the win on Sunday afternoon. If he does win, well… I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t because I was pulling for him…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 18, 2017 – 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

AfterThoughts on Vegas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well… it happened again, didn’t it? Much like the end of the race at Atlanta, Las Vegas once again proved a race isn’t over until it’s over. Martin Truex, Jr. had a dominating performance and won the first and second stages but didn’t look like the final segment was going to be his. Well, that is until the leader on the final laps began to slow because of some type of equipment failure and that allowed Truex Jr. to pull into the lead and take the win. Of course, you being a NASCAR fan would know that the person he passed was Brad Keselowski and Brad did look as though he was going to cruise to his second victory in a row for the 2017 season. As is often the case in racing, and in particular in NASCAR racing, stuff happens and it often happens quite unexpectedly.

As a NASCAR fan I have to admit I really expected Kevin Harvick to have a much better day than he did. I don’t blame the Goodyear tires (well at least not specifically) but tire failures, like other things that go wrong unexpectedly, happen and there is almost nothing the driver can do. Usually, (and I don’t claim to be an expert), right fronts have problems because they are being over-taxed or pushed a little too hard and at other times they run over something that causes it to blow. Now, when I say over-taxed I am talking about how much camber they use in the setups or when the driver wants the car tightened up. The driver adds more wheel to force it to turn which in turn eats up the tire faster and can be the cause of the failure. Whatever the reason the tire failed, Harvick hit the wall and his day was done.

Brad Keselowski in the other hand just had something break with about two laps to go and Martin Truex Jr. was able to drive past him for the win and even Truex was surprised at the outcome. This was another one of those NASCAR Cup races where it wasn’t over until it was over.

Interesting that the end of the race wasn’t the end of the drama, emotion and intensity for the day as Kyle Bush got dumped by Joey Logano on the final lap and Kyle was definitely not happy about it. He proceeded down pit road and confronted Logano with a “punch” greeting and then the crew members got involved in the minor scuffle. It was all over pretty quickly and Logano came away with his usual “I didn’t do anything wrong or intentional” attitude. Kyle was still noticeably upset and, from this fan’s view, there will come a time in the not too distant future when Logano might need Kyle to cut him some slack but it probably won’t happen. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying Kyle will do anything wrong or intentional, but he just won’t give Logano the break when he needs it. Remember… that’s just this fan’s opinion but don’t be surprised when it happens. I promise though, I won’t remind you that I said it would happen… Nah, that’s not true, I probably will…

Well, so far this season has gotten off to a very interesting start and I do have to admit it looks like NASCAR was correct again in deciding to add the stages to the races. From this fan’s view, they really do seem to add to the intensity and excitement of the racing even in the middle of the races. I’m sure adding the points to the mix didn’t hurt either and it remains to be seen how it turns out when the season winds down in November. As it stands right now, I really can’t wait for this coming weekend at Phoenix and look forward to what this fourth race for the 2017 season has in store for us. So far, it has been very interesting…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 14, 2017 – 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

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup At Las Vegas Motor Speedway Prerace – from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Okay, I tried not to say much until after the races were run but I just can’t seem to not say something before they hit the track on the weekends so this will be the first update to my plans for this year. I hope you don’t mind – I know I don’t…

One thing is certain for the race this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski will be trying to make it two in a row. Some will say, “Oh, you mean like Atlanta and Las Vegas?” Well… yes… I do mean that and it could also be his second win since last year at this track. I’m not one to rely on qualifying times to pick my winners as a general rule but I do have to admit he could do that this weekend. Mind you, I’m not saying he will and he isn’t my first choice but, I am saying he very well could.

So why would I say that the way I just did. Well, there is just no denying the Ford’s have looked plenty fast so far this season and this could be another Ford win. Even the second person I think has a shot at winning also drives a Ford. Yeah, you know I’m talking about Kevin Harvick, don’t you.

Well, after his dominating performance last weekend at Atlanta amounted to a no win situation when he was clocked speeding on pit road during his last stop with eleven laps to go; I do think he would like to rectify that with a win for his team’s outstanding performance last weekend while appeasing himself at LVMS for that speeding penalty at Atlanta. Don’t know that he will but he has had pretty dominating performances lately. In fact, for just changing from Chevy to Ford over the off season, I think the Stewart/Haas teams overall have shown surprising strength and speed so far. From this fan’s view, Kevin Harvick should have won last weekend and with Kurt Bush’s victory at the Daytona 500 and that would have made two in a row for SHR.

From what I have seen so far this season, the Fords look like they could have a stellar year if things continue as they have so far. It makes this fan wonder if it is going to be Fords every weekend or if one of the other manufacturers is going to step up to the plate.

Even with their strong performance last season, the Joe Gibbs Toyotas just haven’t seemed to carry that momentum into this season. That kind of surprises me but if my memory serves correctly, they didn’t start out last season all that strong either. I’m not picking on them but it does seem their start is a bit sluggish but does make me wonder what they’re working on for later in the season. Of course with the stages and the points changes for this season, they need to show more of something or find themselves out in the cold late in the season.

They same goes for the Chevys, especially the Hendrick Chevys. Jimmie Johnson hasn’t carried the momentum from his seventh Championship win last season into this year either. Even though it always seems to this fan the Championship winner starts out the year a little slow, I just don’t see the spark from the #48 team yet. It is a whole different story with Chase Elliott and the #24 team. He has looked very good but he just hasn’t been there when the checkered flag drops at the final lap.

Dale Jr. on the other hand has looked okay but hasn’t really shown much yet other than he is still hounded by bad racing luck. I do expect that could change over the next three races and I don’t rule out the possibility of him winning this weekend. He has had some very good finishes over the last several races at LVMS and this could be the time for his first win at the track in Cup.

One last thing about this weekend at Las Vegas; the teams are working extremely hard on not being caught speeding on pit road. There have been a lot of speeding penalties doled out so far this season and it has made an impact on many teams. Jimmie Johnson leads the series with the most speeding penalties and it really did cost him last weekend, whether or not he had a fast race car.

This Sunday afternoon I’m looking to see if someone driving something other than a Ford dominates or at least makes it look like a race between different manufacturers rather than just Fords…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 11, 2017 – 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