It’s Saturday Night Racing At Bristol, Baby from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There is nothing like a summer Saturday night at the racetrack. It’s where many of us grew up watching the stock car races at our local tracks in our hometowns. When NASCAR shows up to Bristol on a Saturday night in the summertime, well, it’s always something special and it is always exciting. In fact, it is one of the races most looked forward to in the NASCAR season. Like I said – it’s Bristol, baby!

What is it about Bristol that makes it so popular and why is it that so many look forward to the summertime night race at Bristol? That is a great question and I am glad you asked it…

Unfortunately I can only offer you my opinion and thoughts on the subject and not all of them are based on actual facts. Instead it is based on experience from attending races and driving in them on Saturday nights for many years. That may not mean a lot to some but to others, well, if you’ve done the same thing (whether attending, driving or both) then you really know what I’m talking about. Bristol is a short track and it is a fast track and it contains all of the things fans love about racing – fast speeds, high emotions and, yes, even temper flare ups.

There is just something about Saturday night races in the summertime. I know I started attending races with my mom and dad (and my sister, too) when I was very young at the dirt tracks in our hometown in Southern Illinois. It was a big deal as I remember and the stands were always full, the racing was great and the fans were totally involved.

I used to ride my bicycle around the part of town in my neighborhood where I knew there were race cars. They were at gas stations, private residences and other places and I used to just ride up and look at the cars, absorbing all I could about them and dream about being a racecar driver. Early on, my dad and I used to go to the go kart tracks and we would race each other and others at the tracks and both of us would dream about building and driving a stock car for racing on Saturday nights at our local tracks. I was definitely hooked on racing from a very young age.

I wasn’t alone in that thinking either but, as far as I know, I was one of only a few that I grew up with in Southern Illinois that actually got the opportunity to do it when I became older (and after my parents moved us to Florida from Illinois. We actually moved to South Florida when I was 10 years old.) When I began racing regularly, I quickly learned that short track racing had high emotions on both the fan and driver side and fans loved good close and tight racing with lots of action. All of those are traits of a short track that are popular not only at a local level but they are also quite prevalent in the NASCAR series as well, especially when it is a short track like Bristol. Like I said earlier, there is just something about short track racing on a Saturday night…

So what is it about Bristol and the highly anticipated Saturday night race that keeps on bringing out the fans? Well, Bristol is the “fastest half mile in the World” or at least that’s what they say about themselves and it is. It has high banks in the turns, down the straights and it’s a place that is constantly trying to make changes for better and closer racing which always adds to the drama and emotions for the fans and the drivers. This Saturday night is no different and the track did do some work on the bottom of the track to hopefully get the bottom groove back in the racing mix. Sometimes the things they try don’t quite work out as expected but this time, (at least so far this weekend), it looks like it may have done the job.

Of course this Saturday night could be different when the Cup teams put in their full 500 laps. Judging from the Xfinity race on Friday night, it looked like there were two racing grooves (both the high and the low) and possibly even a little bit of a middle groove. That very well could make for a very interesting race and it could mean high emotions and lots of drama all the way down to the drop of the checkered flag.

If we can judge anything at all from the practices and the qualifying, the Joe Gibbs teams and the Penske Fords definitely showed up ready to take it to all and it could be long night for the Hendrick teams and others. Denny Hamlin set a new track record in the qualifying and he looked good to take the pole position. Well, that is until Carl Edwards went out and laid down a better time than Denny in the final round of qualifying. The only bright spots for the Hendrick teams was the sixth place qualifying position of Chase Elliott and the eleventh spot for Jeff Gordon (once again filling in For Dale Jr.). (Well… that is if you actually consider starting eleventh to be a bright spot…)

A little closer look at the qualifying shows that 5 out of the top seven qualifiers were either JGR or JGR associated teams. No matter how you look at it, that does not bode well for other teams if you only consider the qualifying positions for how the race might play out. Personally, this fan doesn’t usually look at qualifying as a way of foretelling which one of the 40 drivers and teams might win. Qualifying does say something about how well drivers and teams perform for one or two laps but there are several other things to consider when thinking about 500 laps around the Bristol Speedway. Some of them are pit stops, tire wear and fuel strategy just to mention a few.

Although there hasn’t been too much attention paid to possible tire problems, from this fan’s view the possibility has to be considered. The speeds are higher which could mean higher brake temperatures which could lead to heat related tire failures. I’m not saying it is a definite but if it turns out that it begins to happen, just remember where you heard it first… (I’m laughing and I hope you are too.)

Along with the possibility of tire failures, is the strategy for fuel in case it becomes a fuel mileage race and the heightened possibility of the drivers or crews making costly mistakes on pit road. Any of these could make the difference between ending up in Victory Lane or finishing way back in the field.

And then there is the emotional aspect, especially near the end of the race where everyone is getting tired and short tempered. That’s when things seem to break loose and, at the end of the night when people are talking and heading for home, the most heard statement will probably be… “That’s just Bristol, Baby!!!” And that’s just one big reason why this fan thinks Saturday night racing at this short track is so popular… Because it is Bristol, Baby!!

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 19, 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 Cup Teams Road Racing at The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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After rain delayed and shortened the race last weekend at Pocono, the hope is for no more rain this weekend even though it did rain between the practice sessions on Friday and qualifying on Saturday. There is nothing more frustrating for the drivers and their teams than to have the added stress of having to include rain in their strategy for qualifying as well race day. Even though rain did affect all of them in the same way, it wasn’t the only thing having an effect on the way all of the teams approached the race for this weekend.

Now why would I say something like that? After all, it seems there is the possibility of rain just about every weekend and the Cup teams should be able to handle that adversity if for no other reason than these drivers are called the “best drivers in the world.”

Well… that is an interesting question and I am sure there are several that would answer it with varying degrees of intensity and understanding. There is no doubt in this fan’s mind that the Cup drivers are some of the best in the world and they do manage to overcome adversity after adversity week in and week out. I am often amazed out how they manage to take on the challenges they face head-on and often overcome them in grand fashion.

Unfortunately, rain isn’t the only thing affecting the way they approach the race at The Glen this weekend. Just to mention two of them are the fact that the track has been repaved since the last time they competed at Watkins Glen and Goodyear brought tires with a harder compound to compensate for the new surface. Add it all together and you find the challenge is just a bit different this time than it was last time.

One thing that stands out to this fan is how the lap times got faster after a few laps rather than dropping off after the first lap or two. That should make a difference in how the teams approach the strategy for tire wear during the race but, because of the rain before qualifying, no one really knows what the grip will be like as the race progresses. As the track rubbers up will the grip get better or will it get worse – that is one of the main questions that won’t be answered until the race progresses. That will mean extra pressure on the crew chiefs and the drivers. With that unknown, they are possibly going to have to adjust on the fly throughout the race. Everyone already knows that is nothing new but, with the opportunities dwindling for those with no wins but a chance to make the Chase, it does become one of the more important factors to be considered for this race at The Glen.

It was good to hear from Dale Jr. this weekend and get a better understanding of where he is in his healing process and also get a better understanding of where his head is at. To this fan, it seems he is in a very good spot even though still facing at least two more races over the next three weeks of not being in his race car. He did admit he is getting impatient but also willing to take it as it comes and as his doctors recommend. According to the plan for the #88 Hendrick team, Jeff Gordon is supposed to substitute for Dale Jr. for the next two races. For those that may not have heard, that means The Glen this weekend and Bristol in two weeks.

Speaking of Jeff Gordon, from this fan’s view he can’t be happy with the results he has had over the last two races while being in the seat of the #88 Hendrick Chevy. I just can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a four time Champion to not be performing as some may have hoped, including himself. He hasn’t done badly but I am sure he would have liked to have performed better at two of his best tracks, Indy and Pocono. In his defense, at least from this fan’s view, last weekend at Pocono he worked hard all race and finally got good track position which could have given him a very good finish. As it turned out, on that very same restart his seatbelt came loose and he had to drop back as he tried to get it refastened. In the meantime, he lost a bunch of spots which he was not able to recover from which resulted in a poor finish in the rain shortened race.

As a long time fan of Jeff Gordon, it is my hope he gets a couple of good finishes in these next two races while filling in for Dale Jr. It may be a stretch to hope for a win but top five finishes wouldn’t be unwelcome surprises. I’ll even go further and say a win at either The Glen or Bristol would be a surprise to many but not out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to Jeff’s capabilities. Come to think of it, I’d still like to see one or both of these next two races come down to a race between him and Tony Stewart. As a fan of both, I just think it would be very interesting to see even though probably not too likely.

Carl Edwards will start on the pole Sunday afternoon and that means he made a clean sweep of the poles for the road courses this season. Starting on the pole and having the advantage of pit selection always makes a difference every weekend but starting on the pole does not mean the day will end with a checkered flag and a trophy. Carl knows it, I know it and many of you know it – there is a lot of competition looking for that same flag and trophy so his job will not be easy. Some of his competition is coming from his own teammates and some of it from some very good road racers in the field as well.

Some of those Carl will have to fend off are known names like AJ Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Bush along with others. I don’t think it does any damage to include Chase Elliott as one of those even though he is basically a rookie. Some of the lesser known names but good road racers also are names like Michael McDowell, Casey Mears and Regan Smith. Any one of these could win and some need a win to lock themselves into the Chase. I think it just remains to be seen how some of these finish when the day is done.

I remember the “old days” which really weren’t all that long ago. Those were the days when there were only a few considered as ones to come away with the win at a road course. Those days are gone and the competition has greatly increased along with the number of those that can come away with a win. Whichever way the checkered flag falls this weekend, I really believe this is going to be an unforgettable race at The Glen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August XX, 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 The Tricky Triangle Again from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Pocono is known for a lot of things and one of them is The Tricky Triangle. When the Cup teams take to the track on Sunday afternoon, there will be many teams looking for success at the strangely shaped Pocono Raceway fondly called The Tricky Triangle. Not everyone is fond of it though and once again it appears the Toyotas have an edge this weekend. In particular, two of those are Kyle Bush and Martin Truex Jr. Of course that is nothing new this season as the JGR teams have somewhat dominated the rest of the field for most of this season.

After his performance last weekend at The Brickyard, it seems that Kyle Bush would be one of the ones to watch for winning this one at Pocono. I’m not saying he will but I am saying he will be one of the ones vying for the trophy when it comes down to those final laps. Even in practice and qualifying he was fast though they were fighting an LIS setup problem on the rear of the car. Whatever that problem was, as of the time I am writing this down, they appear to be confident they have that situation solved and that could be an ominous sign for the rest of the competitors.

Say what you will but Kyle has been fast almost every weekend and this weekend is no exception. Except for that problem with getting the rear end acceptable to the inspectors he looks to be set up for another great performance. It is never good to say anyone is a definite when it comes to racing, especially at Pocono, but I do expect to see him at least in the top five if not out front when it is all said and done. (Well, that is barring the unforeseen circumstances which are always a possibility.)

His biggest problem is his teammates and associated team of Martin Truex Jr. Denny Hamlin is a four time winner at Pocono and Martin Truex Jr. is a recent winner. Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards looked awfully good in the practice and qualifying sessions and any of those four also have a chance at taking the win when it comes down to it, at least as far as the Toyotas are concerned.

It’s not just the other Toyotas that have a chance this weekend though. The Hendrick Chevys have seventeen wins at this track and Jeff Gordon (still filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this weekend) owns six of those. When it comes to the other Chevys, I just can’t rule out names like Kevin Harvick, retiring Tony Stewart or even some of the drivers from the RCR camp. Paul Menard and Ryan Newman appear to be showing they have something to say about those capable of winning this weekend and that is a good thing. RCR hasn’t been showing a lot of strength so far this season but they do show strong signs of improvement which could result in a possible win for RCR this weekend.

There just isn’t any way to rule out the Fords either. Brad Keselowski is always a threat to win at most tracks and The Tricky Triangle is no different. Only one thing might slow him down a bit this weekend and that is the impact he had at a practice session at The Glen this last week. He plowed straight into the wall with a heavy impact, one he said was his hardest hit ever in his career. He will also be competing at the Iowa track in the Xfinity series so it doesn’t appear to have slowed him down all that much. Like it or not, the Penske Fords just aren’t ones you can rule out no matter whether it is Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano. Either one of them could be there at the finish.

If past history is any judge of how the race will go, this one will likely be a fuel mileage race too. That could put it in the hands of those that are best at stretching out a gallon of fuel to the maximum. Once again, that sounds like a race favoring the driver of the Penske Ford named, Brad Keselowski. It doesn’t mean he is the only one that knows how to conserve fuel but it does suggest he has done a very good job of it in the past. He isn’t alone in being able to win a fuel mileage race and that could mean Kurt Bush or Jimmie Johnson have a good chance also. I only mention a few names here but there are several in the field that can do it on fuel mileage depending on how the cautions fall and whether the gamblers show up near the end.

I just can’t close this out without talking about Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Jeff is in the midst of a steep learning curve and trying to be competitive as he fills in for the recovering Dale Jr. and his #88 team. There have been a lot of changes to the cars go into effect since Jeff retired after Homestead last November and he has only been in a car one weekend this season. That is tough for anyone, even a four time Cup Champion and someone with as many races and wins as he has over his career.

Tony Stewart has had strong performances since his return to the Cup Series and I expect him to have another good race this weekend at Pocono. If he continues on as he has, he will definitely have a chance at another Cup Championship before his retirement at the end of this season. If either he or Jeff wins this weekend, you can bet there will be a lot of happy fans celebrating how one of the “old guys” won when everyone said it wasn’t going to happen.

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

It’s Stewart’s Farewell and Gordon’s Return at Indy from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will witness the farewell race of Tony Stewart and the return of retired legend and champion, Jeff Gordon, as he fills in for recovering Dale Earnhardt Jr. As the whole world knows, Dale Jr. has been suffering from concussion symptoms and is taking time off to recover from them. The plan so far is for Gordon to fill in for Jr. for the next two races, this one at Indianapolis and next week at Pocono.

Of course this fan knows none of this is news to anyone because it has been pretty much the main topic of many discussions for the last couple of weeks. In fact, it may have taken a little bit of the attention away from this being Tony Stewart’s farewell race in Cup at Indy. That may be a bit of an understatement and it may not be new news but it does add a completely new dimension to the weekend, not to mention the expanded interest it is generating.

With Tony Stewart retiring at the end of this season and this being his final race at Indy, much is planned for the hometown hero himself. It is definitely an emotional time for his fans and, from this fan’s view, probably Tony as well. We all know he is quite capable of focusing on racing and he is definitely doing that this weekend and it is possible he could be kissing the bricks at the end of the day on Sunday. That is by no means a lock and in no way means he has no chance. What it does is add to drama of the other big story taking place this weekend.

Jeff Gordon never said he wasn’t ever going to race again, he only said he wasn’t going to race competitively in the Cup series. He also added if opportunities came up, he would take advantage of them. So… this is not a big a surprise to this fan and not really too many others either. In addition, he will also be filling in for Jr. at Pocono next weekend (barring any unforeseen circumstances) and both of these tracks are places he has won at multiple times.

I don’t think anyone can deny that this is probably the best opportunity that could ever have been imagined for Jeff to make a temporary return to the Cup Series. After all, in his career, Jeff has won at the Brickyard five times and that is the most of anyone. In the same span of his twenty-three year career in NASCAR, he has six wins at Pocono. You add all of that up and it comes to eleven of his ninety-three career Cup wins. No matter how you look at it, “that ain’t too shabby” and I don’t think anyone can argue the point that it’s not a bad set of statistics either.

Apparently, there are those in the media that are at least somewhat surprised and some have even offered the opinion that it is a bad move on the part of Jeff and Hendrick Motorsports too. They have questioned why, with all of the available young talent out in the wings and available to Hendrick Motorsports, they chose to call in a retired “old” driver. They offer their concern that he may be jeopardizing his illustrious career by not performing as well as may be expected. They also offer their concern about the future of the 88 team and what it might be like if Jr. decides to exit in the not-so-distant future because of his susceptibility to concussions. Where they get their ideas from this fan has no idea.

Let’s just be real for a moment or two. Hendrick racing is in a little bit of a slump this year and I don’t think anyone will deny that. Every team goes through times they fall a little behind the competition and have to work their way back to the top. Even Rick Hendrick knows and admits that you can’t be number one forever and knows that once you fall a little behind you have to work hard to regain the edge you once had.

Hendrick Motorsports may be struggling a little but they will come out of it. If they put an up-and-comer in the #88, it could be a good thing for that younger driver but not such a good thing for the #88 team that is presently in the Chase. It also might not be the best thing for the sponsors of the team.

Like it or not, it takes a lot of money to be competitive in NASCAR and sponsors play a large part in that part of the equation and sometimes it is simply a business decision that has to be made. To be fair, they pay a hefty price for the attention they receive from sponsoring a team in NASCAR and they deserve to “get their money’s worth” from the person driving the car on any given race weekend. That may sound a bit cold to some but the reality is in answering the question of which situation gains them the best “visibility” – an unknown “up-and-comer” or a known 4 time champion like a Jeff Gordon? Personally, this fan thinks that question answers itself.

So, in this fan’s opinion, the Brickyard 400 at Indy this year has multiple story lines and probably even more attention grabbing headlines than just the “usual” yearly event. It isn’t just made up of things like the Tony Stewart farewell race or the absence of Dale Jr. in the #88 and his being “replaced” by Jeff Gordon for the weekend. I’m sure there will be lot of people watching just because Jeff Gordon is filling in for Dale Jr. and hoping he just might be in the mix for taking the checkered flag when it falls. Since this is Tony Stewart’s farewell and final race as a real competitor in the Cup series, I am just as sure there will be many pulling for him to win too. That’s not to mention there are 38 other drivers and their fan’s pulling for them to win also.

I can’t help but say, as a fan of NASCAR and the two drivers there has been a particular focus on this weekend, I will be watching this one with particular interest. I think it would be great if, when it comes down to the final laps, the real race comes down to which one will win, Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon. I don’t think it will happen as much as I hope it will and I know that it might be a little selfish on my part for it to happen that way BUT… can you think of a better way for this one to end?

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

Some Cup Teams Looking For Magic at New Hampshire from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There are still some NASCAR Cup teams trying to seal their deal for making the Chase and they will be looking for some magic at the Magic Mile on Sunday afternoon. As we all know, the best way for them to do that is to win a race and take the points racing pressure off. So far this year there have been eleven winners and several of them have multiple wins. That leaves five spaces open for some to make it in either on points or with wins and there are only eleven races left for them to do so. At the moment there is still time for any of about twelve of them to make it in but it becomes more difficult and stressful as the races wind down and more are added to the winners list.

Unfortunately, some of the possible winners trying to clinch a place in the Chase will have to win over teams that have shown themselves to be a bit stronger this season. There is a high possibility some of those with one or more wins so far this season will likely win again before the Chase and that will limit the chances of those non-winners to take a win. Any way you look at it from this point in the season, it could get very interesting as those not in contend for those final five spots not already taken. Of course it could really get interesting if there are more than five different winners over the next eleven races and then those already in have to start wondering if they will make it with just their one win and points.

A couple of those drivers trying to get a win and either stay in or get in the top sixteen are Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. Both are with Chip Ganassi Racing and it would be great if they get the chance to at least represent CGR when the Chase begins in September. They aren’t thought of as one of the powerhouse teams but they are a popular one. For either one or both of them to make the top sixteen would be a major plus for them as drivers and for CGR in general.

With the announcement made by Dale Jr. and his suffering from concussion symptoms again, the rumor mill has been full of “what if’s.” Those rumors and publicly expressed thoughts have covered the full spectrum ranging from, “What if he can’t come back this season,” and “What will the Chase be without him?” to “Does this mean he is going to retire?”

Many shudder at the thought of NASCAR not having an Earnhardt in the mix anymore. After all, he is NASCAR’s most popular driver and he is definitely one of the most talented in the field today. Why, this fan even heard a comment saying that there were some people (assumed to be Dale Jr. fans) that would not be attending the races until he returned to competition in the Cup series no matter who was in the #88.

I do not know how true or untrue any of that I just mentioned may be but I do know he does have a lot of fans and many of them come just to see him try to win. They really don’t care too much about the car with the number 88 on it or who’s driving it if he’s not in it. They are quite simply Dale Jr. fans and he is the biggest reason they come to watch, whether in person or via some other form of media. They may follow NASCAR and be NASCAR fans but Dale Jr. is their biggest reason for being as involved as they are.

Now don’t misunderstand what this fan is saying. Both you and I know NASCAR is bigger than any one particular driver or personality but some do draw more attention to the sport than others do. With Jeff Gordon retiring last year and Tony Stewart at the end of this season, what kind of an impact would Dale Jr. no longer competing have? That would be a lot strong personalities and influencers going away in a very short period of time.

Personally, I think it would make a noticeable impact but I also think the impact would fade within a relatively short period of time… ((break))

At the time of this writing, Jimmie Johnson had won the pole and this fan wonders if this might be a glimmer of hope that the Hendrick teams have found something and might be able to turn around the somewhat lackluster year they’ve been experiencing this season. Yeah, I know Jimmie has won twice and is definitely going to be in the Chase (that is barring some strange turn of events) but the Hendrick teams just haven’t looked like themselves over the last year. They haven’t had the speed this season and they definitely haven’t had that ole “racing luck” on their side. I guess time will tell us if this is just a glimmer or a real spark of hope for them to start turning things around.

From this fan’s view, there is simply no denying the dominating performance of the Joe Gibbs teams this season. Between the four JGR teams themselves and the associated team of Martin Truex, Jr., they have shown up every week as the ones to watch and, more often than not, the ones to beat at the end of the race. Yes, it is true Brad Keselowski and his #2 Penske Ford have often been showing up in Victory Lane – a total of four times so far this season – but even he admits his win last weekend was a fluke. After all, he did run out of fuel just after passing the finish line at the drop of the checkered flag ahead of Carl Edwards. He stated that it isn’t always the best car that wins and his wasn’t the best car last weekend. It is more about which car and driver is out front when the checkered flag drops.

It wasn’t just dumb luck that he did stretch his fuel enough to make it to the finish line in first place, he worked at it and is good at conserving fuel. Whether or not he would have won even if it hadn’t turned out to be a fuel mileage race we will never know. What we do know is that he did win it and did so pretty much on fumes…

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

Cup Teams Take On A Different Kentucky Speedway from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The NASCAR Cup Teams take on a different Kentucky Speedway tonight. It is different because it has been repaved and, not only repaved but changes were made to the track as well. Turns 1 and 2 are different and the front straight has been changed a little. The track needed to be repaved and, since they were doing the repaving, they decided to make some changes to the track to make it more of a challenge for the drivers.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that so far; the drivers like challenges that make them better or show more of their ability to adapt. After all, they are spoken of as the best race car drivers in the world (and I don’t argue with that) and they should be up to the challenges presented to them at any track at any time in the NASCAR season. One other little change for this race is they are back to the reduced down force package they used a few weeks ago. The track changes and the reduced down force should make for a very interesting Quaker State 400 when they take to the track this evening.

Once again the weather has intervened and the qualifying was rained out so they will line up according to points. That could be an advantage for some and a disadvantage for others. In fact, some would say it is a blessing for some and a curse for others. Personally, this fan doesn’t think it will make that much difference other than the way the teams get their pit stalls.

For Kevin Harvick, well, it just might be a good thing but considering how things have been for them lately he and his team will have to maintain good track position throughout the race to take full advantage of that number one stall. Considering performance in the practices, that may or may not be within their realm of possibilities. They have been struggling speed-wise lately and that is going to make track position all the more important (which is really nothing new to any team these days.)

One thing that has eliminated a little of the drama from this season is Tony Stewart’s getting a win and moving into the top thirty in the points. As long as he maintains his position in the top thirty in points, he is already qualified for the Chase. For that reason the only drama left in his situation is whether or not he can maintain or better his position in points and not drop below the magic number of thirtieth. If he does, that means he has a chance for winning another Championship in this his last season in NASCAR competition. That would really re-establish some drama for when the Chase begins. For right now though, he is qualified and most of the stress is off for now.

It’s at this point I just have to make a personal statement on what is going on with the networks and how they are covering NASCAR these days. I know I am not alone in this thinking and I do quite often hear about the frustration many fans express with where they can watch the TV coverage of their favorite sport. For the last few years I have heard complaints about the racing coverage not being on channels they can’t receive unless they have cable, satellite or some other provider. Admittedly, I have even complained about that myself (and honestly still do a little.) It seems it is one of the things we as fans have to put up with because of the popularity of our favorite sport and the money it generates.

I understand why the networks do what they do and why they try to get viewers to watch their additional sports channels. It is mostly about marketing and what they can charge for advertizing which helps their bottom line. That doesn’t mean I like it but it does mean I put up with it even though I don’t see everything anymore simply because I don’t want to pay for that extra tier of programming just to watch one or two more channels. I liked the days when it was on the main networks and I could watch it from my off-air antenna. It is the same for the technology for phones, pads and computer viewing. If you want to use it to view it live, you generally still have to have that account with one of the programming providers like your cable or satellite company. In my opinion (and I know I am not alone) it does somewhat limit at least the television viewing audience which is disappointing for some that don’t have access or don’t want to pay extra for the access.

Oh well, I guess that’s enough of my disappointment rant for now…

In case you haven’t noticed, the Joe Gibbs Toyotas have shown up again this weekend showing the strength they have exhibited most of the season. Even though the track has made changes and NASCAR has once again instituted the lower down force package that part of the race hasn’t changed. From this fan’s view, I do expect them to be very visible at the end of the night when the checkered flag falls. That is, if they don’t succumb to some of the possibilities the changes for this race might cause.

Some of those possibilities have been very obvious during the practices. We have witnessed more than one or two get out of the groove on this newly repaved track and slide up into the wall with varying degrees of intensity. Some have pancaked their cars on the right side and some have simply brushed the wall with minimum damage but damage just the same.

Kyle Bush has always performed well at Kentucky and tonight may not be any different. Even though I expect either a JGR or possibly a Penske team to be in Victory Lane when it is over, I’m not so sure it will be Kyle Bush. Even though he has done well at this track, he doesn’t perform all that well on newly paved or repaved tracks. Still, he has to be one of the favorites for taking the trophy along with several other Toyota drivers if only because JGR has looked so strong this season… But then again, there are a lot of others not associated with JGR that could end up with the trophy when it is all said and done and that is what’s going to make for an interesting Saturday night at the races…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 9, 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

Daytona, Restrictor Plates and the Coke Zero 400 from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s nothing like NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at Daytona on a fourth of July weekend. There is the speed, the bumper to bumper, door to door close racing and the drafting along with the celebration of the birth of our nation and the always spectacular Support for our Troops. Of course there is always that ever present chance of rain that comes with summer in Florida and with what has gone on so far this weekend, it is possible there might be some rain delays or even postponement to the next day. Of all the talk I’ve heard this week, the rain thing is the one I’ve heard most often.

Just in case you’re wondering, the rain thing is important because the teams are preparing to race at night. You might say, “Well, if it rains and they move it to a day race, what’s the big deal? They raced in February in the daytime so they should have good notes for a day race.”

Well in this fan’s opinion, that’s just not so. The difference between February in the daytime and July in the daytime is dramatic. There is no comparison of the two and what the track will be like by comparing them. With some of the rule changes made for this season, this fan doesn’t even think last summer’s race notes would be all that useful. I could be wrong but with the way things change in NASCAR, plate racing at Daytona is a little different every time they visit the track. I’m not saying that is a bad thing (in fact I kinda like the unpredictability of that) but it does mean they have to add to their knowledge if they want to perform well. With the practice rainouts this week, they haven’t had that much time on the track to work out any details they might have wanted to work out. In this fan’s opinion, I think that could make a difference in tonight’s race.

Now even with the differences a year can make, some things haven’t changed since the beginning of this year. The JGR teams still look very strong coming into this weekend and they all qualified well. As you already know I don’t put a lot of stock in qualifying, particularly at a restrictor plate race but, JGR’s performance in qualifying does suggest to this fan they will likely be contending for the win at the end. After all, the four JGR teams in particular displayed the same or similar performance in February and if you remember, Denny Hamlin did win the Daytona 500.

I think one of the surprises to me as a fan has been the recent performance of the Roush teams of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle. They haven’t been exactly spectacular but they have shown signs of life and Biffle is sitting on the pole for tonight’s race. It doesn’t necessarily follow that sitting on the pole results in a great performance for a race (just ask Chase Elliot about that in the February race) but it does have to give Biffle and his team a real shot in the arm with hope and a maybe even a little bit of momentum going into tonight’s Coke Zero 400.

Along with the Roush Fords, the Penske Fords didn’t look too bad either, whether in practice or qualifying. Brad Keselowski qualified fifth and his teammate, Joey Logano, eleventh. Brad usually is one to watch when the laps wind down near the end of a plate race, especially at Daytona, and tonight may not be any different. As for his teammate, well, let’s just say he might be up there in contention but this fan won’t be pulling for him to win…

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me as a fan has been the performance of the Hendrick teams this season and last. I’ve seen them be in slump before but I don’t remember a season in recent history that a slump for them has lasted so long. They’re not down in the dumps, so to speak, but they just haven’t shown the usual Hendrick dominance they exhibit most years. It isn’t even showing up in the Hendrick associated teams. They’re not doing badly but they’re just not in contention like they usually are. I know it isn’t uncommon for any team to go through some off-times performance wise but it is unusual for the entire Hendrick organization and associates to not be in the conversation when it comes to race finishes.

Jimmie Johnson did qualify eighth for tonight’s Coke Zero 400 but the next actual Hendrick team in the lineup doesn’t show up until sixteenth and that would be Dale Jr. That isn’t what we normally expect when it comes to restrictor plate tracks and it definitely isn’t what this fan expects from Hendrick teams at Daytona. Yes, I know qualifying has very little to do with anything associated with a restrictor plate race but it could be making a statement of how their performance is down, at least for the time being.

Dale Jr. is always a favorite at a restrictor plate race and tonight probably won’t be any different, particularly as far as his fan’s are concerned. I think he just doesn’t want a repeat of February’s race that saw him exit early. Personally, I like it when he is in the mix at the end and it would be nice to see a Hendrick team in there fighting for the victory when it comes down to the final laps.

So when it comes down to the race tonight this fan has several thoughts about how it will go. It is possible it could be a long night just in case it rains before or near the time for the green flag to drop. I really don’t expect a rain postponement but it is a distinct possibility considering where we are and the time of year. I do expect a good restrictor plate race and hope it isn’t shortened by late rain. The threat of rain before and during the race always adds quite a bit of intensity to any race, especially a restrictor plate race and even more to one at Daytona. As for who might win, well, I’m thinking it could be one of the JGR teams but really hoping for a win by a Hendrick team. Sorry about that Ford fans but you how it is…

Mostly what I hope for is a great race with a lot of drama and intensity and a threat of rain…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 2, 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

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

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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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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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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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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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The 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