For Chasers It’s All About Winning At Texas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Okay… this is the way it is. Jimmie Johnson is in the final four at Homestead and the rest of the Chasers are trying to get there. Unfortunately for four of the remaining eight only four will advance and four of them won’t and they only have two more races to make it into the final four. The easiest way for them to make it in is to win. Although there are a couple that could make it in by points, winning removes all doubts and that is what it is all about at Texas this Sunday afternoon. One other unfortunate thing about this weekend – or any race weekend in NASCAR – there are forty drivers that want to win and only one can. That means there are thirty nine drivers wanting or needing a win this weekend and only seven of them are still in the Chase for the Championship.

The point that really brings this home is that Austin Dillon took the pole for Sunday afternoon’s race and he is no longer in the Chase. Of all of the ones running in the AAA Texas 500, there are more than a few that could win it and only eight of them are still qualified to move on.

So, which of the present eight need to win this one the most? My choice would be Carl Edwards. He is lowest in the standings for the Chasers and needs a win more than he needs points. Well, that is unless the other six that haven’t locked in a position for Homestead have really bad days on Sunday afternoon.

Next in line for really needing a win is Kurt Bush. He has been running consistently but not consistently in the top four or five and he presently sits seventh in the Chase grid. If he just continues as he has been, it just won’t be enough to make the final four. A win, however, could make a drastic difference in his future but also in the future of a few others as far as the Chase is concerned.

Probably the biggest surprise to this fan is where Kevin Harvick is in his quest for his second Championship. Some would call it just bad racing luck, others would say he just hasn’t gotten the breaks he needed to be higher in the standings and still others say his performance just hasn’t been there. Any one or all of those may be true in one way or another but one thing is certain from this fan’s view; he can’t continue on like he has in his quest for his second this year. Well, that is unless he wins or finishes in the top three over the next two races and hopes his competitors have finishes near the back of the field. Otherwise, well, this fan just thinks he might have to continue his quest for his second next year.

Joey Logano sits in an interesting and precarious position if for no other reason than he is eleven points out of fourth and looks pretty strong for this weekend. Of course this wouldn’t be the first time he has looked strong and finished a race relatively poorly. All it would take for him to not move on is to have two relatively mediocre races over the next two weeks and watch another opportunity pass him by. It isn’t outside the realm of possibilities for him to not move on but having really good finishes over the next two races could really make a big difference. Of course, he could win at least one of the next two and cinch a spot in the finale at Homestead.

Defending Champion, Kyle Bush, hasn’t had a great time so far this weekend. Before he even completed the first lap in the first practice, he bounced hard off the wall and had to move into a backup car. In qualifying he had a loose water hose and didn’t qualify well. Now both you and I know that doesn’t always mean trouble on race day but it could mean this race could be struggle for him and his #18 M&M JGR team. I never rule out Kyle Bush but he has had his struggles in the Chase in the past.

Let’s see… Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin are basically tied for second in the grid and either one of the two could make the trip to Victory Lane on Sunday afternoon. I’m not picking either one as a definite winner but have to consider the possibility of them winning. If one of them does win, there is definitely one I would rather see win than the other but I won’t even go there because I think you know which one I’m talking about. With the way the Chase has been going so far, anything can happen and they could both be put in a must win situation for next week.

Texas is a fast, slick track and it can be a tricky track to figure out as the race progresses. Not only is it fast but there are spots and times during a race that brushes with the wall can make a difference in whether or not one might finish. There are some bumps that have upset some and they could make a dramatic impact on any one or several of the Chasers on Sunday afternoon. Of course that doesn’t mean it will happen but only that it could and then there is the possibility that the end result could play a large part in which of the remaining seven have a chance to move on to the final four.

So it does come down to the fact that it is all about winning at Texas this weekend and if someone other than a Chaser wins, well, that really means next weekend at Phoenix could be one of the most dramatic races in Chase history. Should things pan out that way, there will still be seven drivers and teams contending for the remaining three places in the final four and that will definitely make it one to watch and it will be filled with drama and emotion not often matched on a NASCAR race weekend. But then again, well… you know…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 5, 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

Short Tracking Chase Reset for Eight at Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Okay… from this fan’s view last weekend was one of the least eventful races at Talladega in quite a while. Oh, I know what you’re thinking about that statement… “What do you mean uneventful; there was a lot going on?” Yes there was a lot going on if you were a Chaser but as a fan, well, that was a little bit of a different story. It wasn’t really a ho-hum race because it was interesting but it wasn’t really an “on the edge of your seat” race either. It was just a typical restrictor plate race without the “big one” and a few surprises that shook up the standings a bit for those in the Chase.

So that brings us to the reset at Martinsville with the Chase field reduced to eight competitors vying for the four spots available when the Cup Teams reach Homestead for the finale in four weeks. I have to admit, the field of eight does look a lot different than many projected but it should make the next three weeks of competition very interesting. There was only one position that was really close and that was the eighth position which was decided by the slimmest of margins between Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon.

Of all the possible ways the eight qualifying for the next round of the Chase could have gone, that one probably surprised me the most other than I had high hopes but not expectations of Chase Elliott winning the race and him moving on. It just wasn’t in the cards for him this year but if his performance for this year carries over to future years – look out – we just might have another multiple Championship winner in the Cup Series in the years ahead.

Joey Logano has shown up at Martinsville this weekend with lots of speed and momentum coming from his victory last weekend at Talladega. I can’t say this fan is all that happy with that result but I have to concede that he is a formidable competitor for the rest of the teams in the Chase. I’m really not much of a Joey Logano fan but I can’t argue with his performance and results. He has been successful and is often one of the ones to beat at when the checkered flag drops just about any weekend. Whether I like him or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is he continues to out-perform his competition regularly and that makes him one to watch for this one at Martinsville and in the weeks to come. I still haven’t decided if he will be one of the final four, but, I do have to admit he very well could be.

The last two weekends were very rough for Logano’s teammate, “bad Brad” Keselowski and he didn’t qualify to move on to this round as a competitor for the Championship but he could end up a winner of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 and I am sure that wouldn’t bother him one bit. In fact, Martin Truex Jr. is in the same boat and he would not surprise this fan one bit if he walked away the winner. I’m not saying either one of them will win but I am saying they could win and that would make the two weeks ahead after Martinsville much more stressful for the eight Chase contenders.

I do suppose you’ve noticed that much of the conversation about the race this weekend at Martinsville has centered around the thought that a “spoiler” could win and do just what I mentioned above; make it all the more stressful for those still competing for the final four at Homestead. I agree with many that have brought up the subject and there is probably more of a possibility it happening this weekend than any other in the weeks ahead.

A short track can be the great equalizer, especially when it comes to which of the teams can win. Sometimes a smaller team has a better chance at a short track race than at any other and there are several that could win and play that “spoiler” part this weekend. There is no guarantee a smaller team with less resources will win against larger teams with a bigger budget but there is that possibility and that possibility could play a part in the way the final four pans out for Homestead.

I do think the eight still in the hunt for the Championship have just as good a chance at winning on this Sunday afternoon but it did appear to this fan, many of them were struggling a bit on this legendary short track during qualifying and the practices. I really believe this could be another one of those strange weekends where anything can, and probably will happen. In fact, I am expecting the unexpected to happen more than I am expecting something normal to happen. In my book, this one is wide open and it could be that a non-Chaser wins the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 and really makes the next two races interesting.

Of course there is always the consideration of at least one more player in the field that could make life more difficult for the eight if he wins and there is a very real possibility that he could. I’m sure you have already guessed I am talking about none other than Jeff Gordon. He has nine wins at Martinsville in his career and he could make it ten this weekend.

I know there may not be many that agree with me but that really doesn’t matter all that much to this fan. I confess, I was and still am a Jeff Gordon fan and there is really nothing I would like better than to see him win this one, add a win to his stats and make it more difficult for those that want to make the final four. If anyone can do it this Sunday afternoon, he can (at least in this fan’s opinion) and I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed if he did.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 29, 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

Talladega, Restrictor Plates and Elimination from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Talladega… a place most of the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers love to hate. A place where restrictor plates hold back the speeds of 3400 pound race cars that could go much faster and a place where the outcome won’t be known until the checkered flag falls for the drivers that manage to make it to the finish line. It is high speed, door handle to door handle, bumper to bumper racing for 500 miles on a 2.66 mile oval with the pedal to the metal at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour. Add to that the fact of it also being an elimination race for those that will be able to move on to the round of eight still able to compete for the Championship and you have what is considered by those competitors as a chess match full of emotion and drama.

This race is also as unpredictable as a lottery drawing with only two that really don’t have to worry about the outcome. Ten others will be competing for the available six spots left to be able to move on to the next round. That also speaks of pressure, tension and that word I overuse a lot – drama but, wow!! – there will definitely be some drama on Sunday afternoon at Talladega.

I am sure you all know which two drivers and teams don’t really have to be concerned about the outcome of this one but I have to mention it is Jimmie Johnson and the #48 Hendrick team and the #4 Stewart-Haas team of Kevin Harvick. Of the 40 drivers competing on Sunday, those two could break or wreck before they make the first lap and they would still move on because they both have a win in this round of twelve. As for the rest of the Chasers, well, none of them are safe with where they are but some are safer than others. It will either be all about winning or finishing way ahead of their competitors for the rest of them.

With Talladega being so unpredictable and the possibility of someone that does nothing wrong getting caught up in someone else’s problem, the outcome of this race could have a drastic effect on the way the round of eight next week will look. It may not look at all like it does at the present time and some of the favorites may no longer even be competing for the Championship. Yes, it has been just that kind of a Chase so far and every weekend has shown nothing is definite about moving on unless a driver wins.

That may not sound all that interesting but I can tell you that the drivers still involved in the Chase part of this race are very interested in all of the possible scenarios. At the present time, many have already counted Chase Elliott out simply because he just hasn’t been able to finish in good points positions and he is now 25 points out of eighth place. He knows his best chance to move on is to win but he also knows winning this race is not completely in his control. That’s not to mention this is only his first full year in Cup racing. If he doesn’t move on this year, he should still have plenty of chances to do so and maybe win a few championships in the future.

Another one that is on the edge is Brad Keselowski. He hasn’t had good racing luck in this round either and he isn’t that far out of the hunt but he just about needs to win to be assured of moving on to the next round. Yes, this fan knows he is only seven points out of eighth but don’t forget this is Talladega. He usually performs very well at this track but past good performance doesn’t guarantee good finish on this particular Sunday. Denny Hamlin is basically in the same boat with him, just one point better.

Probably the biggest surprise to me is Austin Dillon. I really didn’t think he would be where he is but he is tied with Joey Logano for eighth (even though he is listed in ninth.) From this fan’s view, I suppose it is possible he could be moving on to the next round but I’m just not seeing it myself. He doesn’t need to win but he cannot afford to have a bad finish and, (I’m just stating the obvious) the closer to the front he finishes the better for him.

As I stated earlier, no one other than Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are guaranteed to move on to the next round and even those that have a cushion going into this one at Talladega aren’t taking anything for granted. They are all running for the win and any of them could win but any of them could have big problems that take them out of being able to move on to the next round. You may see them trying to stay out of trouble but this fan doesn’t think you will see any of them just hanging around hoping nothing happens. I think you will see them being aggressive but smart. After all, this is Talladega and anything can happen to any one of them at any time and it doesn’t even have to be their fault. All they have to be is in the right place at the wrong time and the rest of the season they could be statistical “also rans” for the 2016 Chase…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 22, 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

The Chase Continues At Kansas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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After a weekend that may have changed everything, the Cup teams take on Kansas Speedway for the next episode of the 2016 Chase. When the race was over and done last weekend the Chase grid looked a bit different than it did when they started the race and now it seems there are those that need to win to get in or, at least finish really close to the front if they want to make it into the next round. Since Talladega is next weekend, the stakes are much higher than they might have been if last weekend hadn’t been such a disaster for some.

But let’s talk about Kansas for a moment… It isn’t really a track that favors any one driver over another, at least not the Sprint Cup drivers. It is a fast track and also an interesting track with its own set of characteristics. Once again this weekend, weather has made life a little more interesting for the teams as they prepare for Sunday afternoon’s race. Sure they got to practice on Friday but it was a bit delayed and the track was ever changing when they did hit the track to practice and then there was qualifying. No matter how you look at it, there are some that look to be struggling and others that seem to be in control of their situations well enough to show they have speed and that is one thing they are going to need.

From this fan’s view, it looks like the JGR Toyotas showed up ready to race this weekend. If qualifying holds any view into how the race may go on Sunday afternoon, the JGR Toyotas looked very good. Let’s see, we have Matt Kenseth (who usually performs quite well at Kansas) on the pole and Kyle Bush starting on outside pole. Behind them are Carl Edwards and the JGR associated team of Martin Truex, Jr. and that looks very good for JGR at least for pit selections and the start of the race.

Of course if you’ve been following this fan’s view for any length of time at all, you already know how much stock I put in qualifying times when it comes to race day. How often have we as fans seen the pole sitter fall like a rock on race day compared to how they did on the few laps they ran to qualify for the pole position. From my view, it happens much more often that way than it does with a dominating performance along with a top qualifying spot.

You see, there’s a reason or two why I think the way I do about this. All things considered and if a car is competitive, it doesn’t really matter that much where they start. What does matter, at least from this fan’s view, is where they pit and how they run for extended periods. If there are long green flag runs, how do they move through the field when compared with the rest of their competitors? Is their setup for the long runs or for the short runs? Are they able to make up spots in the pits (which is one of the best and safest ways to make multiple passes if possible) and does their strategy for the race advance them every time they have to stop?

The Kansas Speedway is, or at least can be hard on tires and on engines. It is a one and a half mile oval and the speeds are high (as I mentioned earlier.) That can wreak havoc on tires and on engines and as we saw a couple of costly tire and engine failures last weekend, the same could happen again this weekend. If it happens to a Chaser other than Jimmy Johnson, well, that could mean their demise as far as the 2016 Chase is concerned.
At the very minimum it could mean they have to win at Talladega next weekend if they expect to move on to the round of eight and that is no small task in itself.

Had it not been for Denny Hamlin losing an engine when he did last weekend, this would be a whole different race altogether. Because of his engine failure, the four other Chasers that had struggles or problems last weekend would have been much further out on a limb. As it turned out, there is only about eight points separating five drivers from not making the next round and they are all presently in the eighth to twelfth positions in this round of the Chase. Man, talk about drama building for these next two races, well from this fan’s view, it doesn’t get much more intense than this.

That is one thing I like about the Chase format in its present form – it makes almost every race one filled with high emotion and drama and there will be those that make it to the next round and some that won’t depending on how they perform in each race. Points matter a little but winning means a lot more. I don’t need to restate this but I will; if you win you advance and if you don’t there is a very good chance you won’t.

I mean, look at how the first round of three races finished; Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick won and they moved on to round two. Because of an engine failure last week, Kevin Harvick may not make it to round three. The same could be said for the other four near the bottom of the top twelve; if they don’t finish in the top five or win, they may be out also. That alone could be enough to keep them awake a night or two after this one is in the books. It will make Talladega loom all the larger for them next week. Although it isn’t likely, if something breaks, blows out or blows up for any of the remaining Chase contenders at Kansas they may be facing an ominous task at Talladega or end up being out of the Chase for this season.

Kansas is a very good track for Matt Kenseth and he could end up in Victory Lane on Sunday but don’t expect Kyle Bush to do anything but push for the win Sunday afternoon. Only one one thousandth of a second separated these two when it come to taking the pole position and it could come down to something just as small at the end of the race. If you go by the qualifying, JGR looks like they could have a great day and the others look like they are struggling a bit. I’m not picking a winner and I’m not saying it will be one from the JGR garage but it very well could be. There is also the chance that a different team could take the win and that team may or may not even be one of the Chasers…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 15, 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

Twelve Take The Reset At Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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As far as the Sprint Cup Championship, everything is back to even at Charlotte Motor Speedway except for the fact there are only twelve taking the reset and moving forward into the second round of the Chase for 2016. Well… that is if it doesn’t rain. Oh, wait a minute… because of Hurricane Matthew, they’ve already moved the Saturday night race to Sunday at Noon ET. This is the second week of double headers as they’ve also moved the Xfinity Series race to after the Cup race on Sunday afternoon. I’m glad to see they at NASCAR aren’t pressing just to get the race in but are taking into consideration the difficulty the storm has brought to the people and fans in surrounding areas of Charlotte.

So, just in case you haven’t been paying attention, last weekend’s race eliminated four of the contenders and this week is the first of three races to cut the field down to eight as NASCAR Sprint Cup teams work to qualify for the final four at Homestead in November. I was around 50% on my choices of which ones would move on to round two and that was only mediocre in my own analysis of my choices. Now, I’m not sure how this three race segment will go but, if it is anything like the first segment it should prove to be interesting.

As a fan, I really was disappointed that neither of the Ganassi teams made the first cut into the second segment of the Chase. From this fan’s view, their fate was pretty much sealed by that old nemesis for many a racer called, “racing luck” and it was really the only thing that kept either Larson or McMurray from moving on, at least in this fan’s opinion. Had it not been for his engine failure, I personally think Jamie McMurray would have moved on instead of Austin Dillon (but then again that is just my opinion.) It has been my experience in the way things happen in racing, the ones that do move on are the ones that should and, more often than not, the opposite is true also. I guess that goes along with my philosophy that all things happen for a reason.

From this fan’s view, I have to wonder if this segment of three races will turn out much the same as the first one did. What I mean is, will it be a duel between Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. or will there be other players that show up in Victory Lane and those two struggle to move on to round three? I think that is what makes this Chase format so interesting at least for me. No one is guaranteed moving on in the rounds unless they win and, as hard as it is for me to repeat myself, I think racing luck will have a big say in whether or not two strong contenders for the Championship move on or not.

I find two things interesting as we move into this second round and those would be how the Hendrick teams are looking stronger than they did for most of the season and how the Joe Gibbs teams haven’t looked so dominating as they did earlier. Perhaps it is nothing but it could be that one of the Hendrick teams may have a shot at taking the Championship again this year.

I’m not going to open that door real wide for now but it is a distinct possibility if they continue to show up to the tracks with the speed they’ve been showing the last three weeks. Of course they will all have to stop making those mistakes that have been costing them dearly, in particular on pit road. Those mistakes from the drivers and the crew members have cost them dearly. From this fan’s view (and a lot of others, too) those have to stop and they have to stop now. They simply cannot afford to make costly errors and expect to continue on in the Chase.

When it comes to the Joe Gibbs Racing teams, I think they will begin showing up at the front more often and it will probably not be with just the associated Furniture Row team of Martin Truex Jr. I don’t know what it is but the JGR teams just haven’t looked as good as they did during the earlier parts of the season. I say that knowing it can all turn around again starting this weekend.

Just as a little side note from a NASCAR fan’s view, have you noticed that some of the rule and setup changes affect different drivers in different ways. I admit it may be coincidental but it seems the rules and setups favor some of the younger drivers more than the ones that have been around a while this season. Of course it is just my opinion and I don’t have any scientific facts to back it up but it does seem that way to me. For example, during the regular season the rookies and younger drivers seemed to excel while some that have been around a while struggled.

I’m sure you will bring up Kevin Harvick as an exception to that but he did struggle in the last part of the season even though he wasn’t one people mentioned about not making it to the Chase. I would counter with the difference in how Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have adapted and performed since Dale Jr. has been sidelined with his concussion recovery time. The two of them have adapted with differing degrees of success and the younger, Alex Bowman, seems to this fan to have adapted more quickly.

Tony Stewart is another example from my view. He did manage to win a race and get into the top thirty in points but he never has looked really strong all year and I don’t think it has a lot to do with the injuries he sustained before the season began. He never did look to be much of a threat when it came to the first three races of the Chase either. Now, I know that is just my opinion from my own observations but I do think the rules and setups for this year had more to do with his lack luster performances than just the Hendrick engine program being down in speed comparatively speaking.

Whatever the case, I do think these next three races will either prove my point or prove me wrong. Personally, I don’t care which way it goes and I do expect there to be some interesting developments as this segment progresses to the next and the elimination of four more teams heading to Homestead with a chance to win the Championship…

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

Facing The Monster of Elimination At Dover from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There’s a reason why they call it the Monster Mile and there are good reasons for some to fear the monster this weekend at Dover – when it’s over – four will be eliminated from the competition for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Now I’m not sure what will happen and it is a bit difficult to say which ones won’t make the cut but I do know this race is important to more than one or two.

Even when you think about those that just don’t have a chance, there is always the chance they could surprise us all and win the Citizens Soldier 400. When this fan really takes the time to think about it, there are a couple of drivers whose only chance to move on is to win. So just for grins, let me tell you which ones I think they are.

First on my list is Chris Buescher. It is firmly my opinion that he only has one chance to move on and that is to win. I really never thought he had much of a chance even though he won a race during the regular season and he was at the top of my list to not move on even as the Chase began. I think it is great that he made the Chase but I never really thought he had a chance and he almost didn’t even make it into the top thirty in points to qualify even though he had that one win. If he doesn’t win and move on it is not the end of the world for him. He is young and still has a lot of opportunity ahead of him.

Next up from this NASCAR fan’s view is Tony Stewart. As much as I don’t want to see him be eliminated in this his final season in Sprint Cup competition, it is this fan’s opinion his only hope is to win. Barring a miracle (other than a win) he just can’t afford to finish anywhere but up front. It probably bothers his fans more than it does him but I do think he would rather be one of the ones moving on to the second round of the Chase and I won’t put words in his mouth but I do think he would rather not be eliminated. If he doesn’t make the cut, it kind of makes the rest of his season, and well… how do I put this tactfully… it would be quite uneventful. One thing is certain, at least from this fan’s view… It definitely wouldn’t have the drama of Jeff Gordon’s last races competitively in the NASCAR Cup Series last season.

Austin Dillon does have a chance at making the cut but I just don’t think he will. Of course that is just this fan’s opinion and he could completely surprise me and win on Sunday afternoon at the Monster. Even though he has shown consistency throughout the year, he and Richard Childress Racing just haven’t shown the strength this fan thinks is needed to take the checkered flag this weekend. Unfortunately for him and RCR, he is one of my choices to not make the cut when this one is over.

This next one is a little hard for me because I really would like to see Jamie McMurray not only make the cut but also take it all the way to the final in Homestead. I’m not so sure he won’t at least perform well enough to move on to round two, but I do have my doubts he will be in the final. That being said, I still would like to see it but I think he is going to have to have some help getting there and he needs to finish somewhere in the top five at the Monster Mile. If he doesn’t, well, I guess there is always next year for him but I don’t think that is completely acceptable to Jamie or Chip Ganassi and I think he will be pressing to either win or finish near the front.

There are others that can’t afford to have a bad day at Dover or they face elimination from the Chase and could make it possible for someone else to make it. Racing luck could have a lot to do with where they finish and whether or not they make it to round two of the Chase.

Kyle Larson definitely cannot afford to have a bad race or he will be gone. If both he and Jamie McMurray are eliminated after this one is over, it would not be a happy day at all at Chip Ganassi Racing. Personally, I kinda hope they both move on to at least round two.

Kurt Bush isn’t even in a comfortable position points-wise to continue on if he has a bad race. A major failure of any kind or an accident of his own or someone else’s making resulting in a bad finish could eliminate him. I’m sure they are doing everything they can to try and not have a bad day but one never knows when bad luck can ruin anyone’s day and season.

I won’t go into a long dissertation on the rest of those that could have disaster strike if they have something go wrong that causes them to finish poorly at, or near, the end of the order but I will say this. Any of them finishing in the last few spots could open the door for someone else to make it in and that person may be someone unexpected.

From this fan’s view, this is one of those races that anything can happen and anyone that still has a chance at moving on into round two could still do it. Two that don’t have to worry at all are Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. but there are a lot of things that can affect the way the next round of drivers shapes up but, this one thing is certain. If they win or end up in the top twelve in points when this one is over, they will move on… (Wow, didn’t that almost sound profound…?)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 01, 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 Chasers Looking For Magic At NHMS from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There are some of the Chasers looking for some magic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. After some bad performances and bad racing luck, some of the hopefuls for moving on to the second round of the Chase absolutely need good finishes at NHMS on Sunday afternoon. As everyone knows that’s been paying even a little attention to NASCAR Sprint Cup, Martin Truex, Jr. is already in round two because of his win last weekend.

Speaking of Martin Truex, Jr., he has been running strong, especially since May and he presently looks like a real contender to move on all the way into the final round. Of course anyone that knows racing knows all of that momentum can be quenched with one or two bad finishes in the second third elimination rounds of the Chase. That’s one thing about racing and racing luck; one never knows when it may turn against you and when it may cost you the biggest prize of NASCAR – the Sprint Cup Championship.

Chris Buescher has a pretty tough mountain to climb if he even wants to make it into round two with his 28th place finish last weekend. Since he was already a long shot in even making it to round one of the Chase, he has a lot of ground to make up. Of course we all know if he makes it to round two or further it would truly be the Cinderella story of NASCAR for the 2016 season and possibly ever. No one expected him to even be where he is and not very many think he has a real chance at even making to round two let alone all the way to Homestead, but, strange things do happen in racing and especially in NASCAR. As for this fan’s opinion, I really don’t think he will advance into round two and he is one of my first picks for being eliminated from the Chase.

Kyle Larson is looking pretty good for this weekend and it looks to this fan that he and his team came prepared to try and take back the ground they lost last weekend with an 18th place finish and losing 5 spots in the standings. Now admittedly, he may not have to win but winning would at least seal the deal for him making it to round two and for some he is decidedly a long shot to do that. Personally, I am not so sure that he won’t make it to round two and could make it to round three and beyond. Yes I do think he is a long shot but he does have talent, potential and speed, at least coming into this weekend and it is possible he could pull off his second Cup win at NHMS. (I have to admit, that really wouldn’t surprise me that much but I going to wait and see how he does before making any real predictions for his advancing further.)

Austin Dillon is another one I don’t expect to go any further in the Chase this year. I just haven’t seen the consistency that would make me pick him as one of the twelve to move on after these next two races. It is always a possibility he could but I just don’t think it will happen for him this year. Would I be surprised if he proved me wrong? No, not really but I do take into consideration the performance coming out of the Richard Childress camp so far this year and I just don’t see the strength or speed when they show up at the track. Maybe in a year or two they will be more formidable competition. Besides, mostly the reason he moved up two spots after last weekend in Chicago is because others finished worse than he did.

Kevin Harvick finished 20th at Chicagoland and was primarily a victim of circumstances beyond his control. He had a very fast car and it looked like he was going to be one of the contenders by the end of the race but early on he had some bad racing luck. For him, a caution came out at the worst possible time and put him a lap down while he was in the pits. From this fan’s view that’s just plain bad racing luck. One second faster and he would have likely remained on the lead lap and who know what might have happened after that. As it was, he just couldn’t catch a break and get back on the lead lap in time to contend for the win. Don’t know if he will bounce back this weekend at NHMS but since we’re talking about Kevin Harvick, this fan just doesn’t want to count him out just yet.

There are others that didn’t finish all that bad but mistakes did cause them to have to hustle all the way to the end of the Chicagoland race. Jimmie Johnson is one of them. A Speeding penalty on pit road put him and his team in a bad spot for a long time during the race and fortunately for him, he finished in 12th exactly in the same position he started in the grid. In this fan’s opinion, I really don’t think that’s at all where they wanted to finish and they definitely don’t want to have a repeat of last year’s Chase where they had bad races in the first two races of the 2015 Chase. Basically that ended their run for the Championship last year and they absolutely don’t want to repeat their early exit of last year.

Although they don’t seem to have regained all of their strength, the Hendrick teams are showing a lot of improvement and this fan thinks they are breathing a sigh of relief even though they aren’t necessarily breathing easy yet. I do think Jimmie has a very good chance at winning the race on Sunday afternoon but I do not think it will come easy. They are going to have to work for it and not make any mistakes which they have been prone to do quite often this season.

This one is kind of up in the air from this fan’s view. It is a relatively short race and should be quite interesting to watch. I have no idea how it will turn out but it should be full of drama and tension and could exhibit some strong emotions as the race progresses. I am not going to call a winner but there are several to choose from and it could be a very big surprise when the day is done and all attention turns to Victory Lane… you might even say it’s magical.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 24, 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 On At Chicagoland from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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And so the Chase begins… Well… that doesn’t sound like a very exciting beginning to what many have been waiting for for up to twenty six weeks of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, does it? That may be true for some but for others, well, it is their first time and they can’t wait to prove themselves. Fortunately, it’s not all going to be over after one or two races and it remains to be seen just how this one is going to pan out. I do think we will know more after this weekend but honestly, we won’t know much more than we do right now.

The first race of the Chase is a race that can make or break the next few races for the 16 Chase qualifiers. It will tell whether they are going to have time to relax a little or whether they will have to work their tails off to make it to round two. All of them hope to finish at or near the front and hope they stay in the top 12 for the next three weeks (if they don’t win, that is.) Winning just takes the pressure off for a week or so until the next round starts.

From this fan’s view, there has already been a lot of talk about which ones of the 16 won’t make it to round two and, though all are entitled to their opinion, it seems a bit pointless to me. I mean, come on, let’s at least see how the first race goes and then take a look at the results and start making a few predictions. I guess some just have to have something to say and they probably hope their predictions pan out and they get their moment of, “see, I told you so…” It is kind of funny to this fan that they don’t have much at all to say when their predictions don’t come to pass. I guess they either hope some of their friends and NASCAR fans have short memories.

I really have no idea which of the 16 Chase contenders are going to advance and which ones won’t but I do have something to say about a few of them. In fact, this seems to be a year where this fan would really like to see the underdogs come out on top. Don’t ask me why because I really don’t know but I do think it would be good for the sport. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a few favorite veterans for being in the final four at Homestead but there are some of the lesser talked about drivers I would like to see take it all the way.

First of all, I just don’t know how Chris Buescher is going to do during this first round of the 2016 Chase but some are already counting him out. All this fan knows is he has been in the right place at the right time more than once lately and it will be interesting to see how his “racing luck” holds out in these first three races. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he won’t make it through to at least the second round but I do think he has his work cut out for himself. I will admit, he isn’t one at the top of my list for moving on but he could.

There are those that say Chase Elliot will be one of the first to be eliminated but this fan really doesn’t feel that way. I mean, he is only twenty years old and he made the Chase in his first full year of Cup racing. That may not mean a thing when it comes to advancing into the next rounds of the Chase but I am looking at what he has accomplished this year. Admittedly he has made a few mistakes, is young and he is very hard on himself whan he messes up but, it does seem he learns from everything, whether good or bad, and uses it to improve his craft. He may not even advance into the second round but he has shown he is a very talented driver and looks to have a bright future whether or not he takes it all the way this year or not.

Kyle Larson is another of the bright spots in the younger drivers and it is my opinion he could be a big surprise during this 2016 Chase. He has been noticeably running near the top of the order a lot lately and could be one of the ones to make it at least all the way to round three and possibly be one of the final four at Homestead. I don’t really want to jump that far ahead yet but I did want to mention it simply because he has been performing well recently and could surprise a lot of people.

Speaking of ones I would like to see advance all the way to the final four, I just have bring up Jamie McMurray even though he isn’t one of the young guns. He is a seasoned driver and has been around a while. I would be really happy to see him going for his first Cup Championship in November but it is true he has to make it through the first three rounds first and there aren’t a lot of those talking heads out there giving him much of a chance of making it, let alone getting in to round two.

Now that I’ve brought up a driver that’s been around the Cup series for a while, I guess I should mention a few of the others I wouldn’t have a problem with their winning the Championship. Just for grins, I think it would be a good thing for Jimmie Johnson to win his seventh Championship. I know there are some that just don’t want him to join that club but he does have six and a seventh isn’t that much of a stretch of the imagination. Of course, the Hendrick teams have been struggling a bit this season but this fan thinks they are turning the corner and that could make the difference.

Just to mention a few others, it would be fine with this fan if Kyle Bush, Kevin Harvick Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth or Kurt Bush take it all the way down to the final one at Homestead in November. Carl Edwards is another of those and any of them could win it all and any of them would deserve it if they did.

Now, I just don’t think it will happen but it would be interesting to see Tony Stewart retire with one more Championship under his belt.

By the way, did you notice I haven’t mentioned the Penske teams or a few other prominent names? Believe me, that’s not an oversight… It’s just I don’t really care whether they make it all the way to Homestead or not. I guess they could and it would be fine but, I still wouldn’t be all that excited if they did…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 17, 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

Richmond Is The End For Some from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Richmond is the place for the last race before the Chase and it should prove to be a very interesting evening of racing tonight. It will also be the end for some and a beginning for others. Now why in the world would I say something like that…? Well… because it is, that’s why.

For some, any hope they had of making the Chase will end after tonight’s race. For some of the others, it will be the end because they just didn’t have a good night or someone’s accident or miscue will take them out and they will fall just shy of the points they need to make it in. For the others it will be a beginning because they finished well or at least “good enough” to make it in and the next part of the 2016 season begins for them. All of them will continue to compete for the rest of the season but some of them won’t be competing for the Cup Championship. That part will only be reserved for the final 16 that we will be able to name after the race tonight is over. Boy, does that sound confusing…

I am sure none of this is new news to anyone but there are around six or seven drivers that really need to have a good night but unfortunately, there will only be space for three of them especially if one of those presently in wins. There are a number of ways things could be shaken up but we don’t need to go into that here. I just know there is a lot of pressure on Ryan Newman, Jamie Mc Murray, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and yes, even Chris Buescher. All of them have to make a strong run tonight and let the cards fall as they may. If one of them wins, well, that’s game over for at least one of the others.

Chris Buescher has the most to lose if he has a bad night. He has to stay in the top thirty in points and that could be a problem for him if he has trouble of some sort. He has a win so that puts him in but only if he can stay in the top 30 in points. Unfortunately he could drop out of the top 30 just about as easily as he can stay in if he gets caught up in someone else’s problem or has one of his own.

Ryan Newman has definitely been working hard to get into the top 16 since he has no win but, unless he pulls out a victory tonight, he will need a little help from his competitors. He is looking to press the envelope tonight and finish at or near the front and hope those ahead of him have problems of some sort or maybe just some really bad finishes. RCR really needs him and Austin to have a good race and nothing would make Richard Childress happier than to have both in the mix for the Chase.

Jamie McMurray also stands to lose the most with a bad finish or some sort of major failure. It could cost him any chance of being in the Chase. Well, that is unless he wins and then… well… let’s just say that puts things in a whole new perspective for him, Chip Ganassi racing and momentum going into the Chase. Since Kyle Larson won his first race a few weeks ago, he has been looking awfully strong and he and his team have been showing up with something for the other teams to look at. If both he and Jamie make the Chase that could make the other teams really take notice and could mean one of them might be in the hunt for the Championship when everyone arrives at Homestead for the final race.

All of the ones that already have one or more wins just want to get through tonight’s race and move on to the Chase. They have nothing to gain or lose from running either good or bad unless we consider the only thing that could make a difference for them is winning. If that happens, they not only pick up the winner’s check but add a victory to their accomplishments and three points added to their points at the reset for the first weekend of the Chase. Other than that, they just want to focus on the first round of the Chase and work on performance in that.

There are a lot of “ifs” and “if onlys” on the line for tonight but none of them will become realities until the race gets started and someone either wins or things get really mixed up. As for this fan’s opinion, I’m not sure how things will go but I am sure it is going to be a night filled with drama and should prove to be very interesting right down to the final lap. Well… that’s my opinion – what’s yours??

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 10, 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

Throwbacks and Taming The Bojangles Southern 500 from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Darlington Raceway… One of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR circuit brings a lot of memories and emotions along with its name. It has been loved, it has been hated but it is legendary and has been since it was built in 1950. Along with all of its history it has been known by several names. We all know its real name as the Darlington Raceway but it is also known as “The Lady In Black” and “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” There are reasons why it got those names and why it became a track that was liked and disliked by many and yet it demands and gets respect from all that compete and contend for wins on it.

This is a weekend of throwbacks to the times of the 70’s and 80’s and the legends and heroes and looks of that time period. There is no reason to belabor that part of the conversation because it has been well covered and presented by the media on hand for this special weekend. Still, many of the cars have the names of drivers from the time period and the looks and paint schemes of that time as well. As a long time NASCAR fan, I have to admit it has definitely been a pleasurable walk down memory lane and I remember all of the paint schemes represented on the Cup cars as well as the drivers from that time period.

The cars and the drivers of the time were a whole different breed than the ones in the Cup Series right now and, from this fan’s view, sometimes it is hard to remember what things were like in those days. Because someone had the idea to have these throwback weekends become a part of the regular racing weekends, a lot of us do remember and younger fans can see just how much the NASCAR Cup Series has changed and how much more technology is involved in today’s cars. With just a little media trip through the history of the sport, it is pretty obvious just how much has changed and how much safer the sport is.

Not all that long ago, the cars were just street cars made into racecars and now they are kit cars made to look similar to street cars but… and I have to be very blunt here… “they ain’t street cars at all.” I admit they do look similar to cars that run on the street with the same names but exterior looks “don’t mean a thing” when it comes to comparing them with actual cars on the streets. It kind of reminds me of an old saying we used to throw around when I was racing. That statement really holds true today, especially when it comes to the stock cars, and it goes something like this… “Real racecars don’t have doors.” In this fan’s opinion, truer words were never spoken and they are more true now than ever.

First of all, many wonder why the Darlington Raceway is called “The Lady In Black.” Well… just so you won’t have to go look it up in an encyclopedia or on Google or Wikipedia, I’ll tell you right here. It is because of the way the walls that are painted white turn black from the drivers rubbing up against the wall with their tires and turning them black from the tire rubber. The wall also leaves its mark on the cars and it is called “the Darlington Stripe” but that is a whole other story…

When it comes to why it is called “the Track Too Tough To Tame,” it is because Darlington is a tough track and few there are that really do seem to tame it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tamed but it does mean it has been tough for many to tame it. One that did tame it was David Pearson and he had ten Cup victories on the track.

Changing the subject just slightly, there will be in the lineup for the Bojangles Southern 500 a seven time winner at the track. In case you haven’t already guessed or heard that person is Jeff Gordon. Once again this weekend, Jeff will be filling in for the recovering Dale Jr. in the number 88 Hendrick Chevy.

Although this fan doesn’t expect it to happen, there is a high possibility Jeff could win the Southern 500. He definitely still has the talent, the team, the car and the opportunity. All of that added together could mean he ends up in Victory Lane. It turns out that Dale Jr. is taking the rest of the year off to recuperate from his concussion problems and that means Jeff will be in the car for several more of these last twelve races sharing the driving with Alex Bowman. In fact Jeff will be driving in four of the remaining twelve races and Alex will drive in eight of them.

From this fan’s view, Tony Stewart is another to watch for winning this one. Since he is retiring at the end of this year and Darlington is one track he hasn’t won at during his Sprint Cup career, this one is one he would like to win before he leaves the series. This weekend would be a great time for him to pull it off and he is running an old Bobby Allison paint scheme on his car this throwback weekend. What better time than this weekend for him to pull off the victory at this legendary track.

The challenge of Darlington Raceway, The Lady In Black, The Track Too Tough To Tame or by whatever name you choose to call it is the way it is shaped. It is really an egg shape and that means turns one and two have to be treated differently than three and four. It also means there has to be a compromise when it comes to handling. The drivers have to concentrate on which end of the track they’re entering every lap and, as the race wears on, fatigue can set in and mistakes can be made which often means either a Darlington stripe or complete disaster.

When I said earlier this track was liked and disliked by the drivers I didn’t mean they don’t like the challenge of it – I think it is more of a love-hate thing really. Darlington is just another one of those tracks they love to hate, depending on how they come away from it at the end of the race that is…

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

Michigan Means Time Is Running Out To Make The Chase from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Summer is winding down and time is running out for those trying to make the Chase for the 2016 Sprint Cup Championship. For those trying to stay in the top sixteen, the time doesn’t seem to pass fast enough. For those trying to make it in the top sixteen either with a win or by points, the time is passing much too fast. Uh, in case you’re wondering or just not paying attention, there are only three races remaining until the Chase begins… (Wow! This year has gone fast… well… at least for this fan it has.)

I find it funny that even though NASCAR changed the rules a while back, (which removed down force and was supposed to reduce the speeds a little making the racing more competitive), the teams are already running faster than they did the last time they visited MIS. According to the lap times, many of the drivers were running consistently above two hundred and fifteen miles per hour entering into turn one. Since they were averaging right around that two hundred mile per hour bracket in their timed speeds, two fifteen to two twenty would be a reasonable assumption for their top speeds. No matter how you look at it, that’s fast!! And remember, Michigan International Speedway is only a two mile oval.

I don’t know about you or what you think but it is fascinating to this fan how the drivers, their teams and the engineers simply keep on finding more speed no matter what changes to the rules and aerodynamics of the cars NASCAR makes. That has to be somewhat disheartening to the rules makers and hopefully won’t yield what higher and higher speeds did to the super speedways like Daytona and Talladega. (To clarify what I mean by that statement, it seems restrictor plates became the answer at those two tracks and, as fans of a sport that involves speed, one would hope they don’t incorporate restrictor plates at tracks where speeds exceed two hundred miles per hour.)

Of course, Goodyear keeps on making better and better tires for just about anything the different tracks throw at the teams. This weekend is no different and this tire could make a difference on which of the teams takes the trip to Victory Lane. The tire wear appears to make the handling last longer than expected and most of the teams have already found that the first couple of laps on sticker tires are the worst for handling. That could mean something, especially when it comes to restarts and should probably figure in to the overall strategy from a crew chief’s point of view if not from everyone else.

It would be reasonable to assume (at least from this fan’s view) that the higher speeds could be cause for alarm for possible tire problems but I just don’t think that will be the problem this weekend. If you compare the speeds of many of the drivers and teams, it is easy to spot that many are running at the higher speeds and that could mean better and tighter racing which is uncommon at MIS. From where this fan sits, the drivers usually run flat out simply because they can and the Michigan International Speedway is conducive to high speed racing with plenty of room and multiple grooves.

It is easy to see that the time really is running out for those needing or wanting a win to cement their spot in the final sixteen for the Chase. Those that already have wins are just biding their time until these next three races are over and they can hopefully get down to business in the final ten races for the season and ending up in the final four for Homestead. As for those without wins but either in the top sixteen or close to being in, well, they are more focused on getting a win than where they finish as long as they don’t lose too many points in the process. For some, winning is the only chance they have of making the Chase and winning this weekend would make life a lot less stressful, at least until after Richmond.

For once in the last several months the Chevys are noticeably showing a little more speed and there may be some actual hope the Hendrick teams could make a decent showing this weekend. Of course that may just be an illusion but at least they were showing up higher in the speed charts than they have recently. Jimmie Johnson was at the top of the list for the Hendrick teams for much of the weekend so far and did qualify second for the start of the Pure Michigan 400 beside pole sitter Joey Logano – (Well… that is if nothing goes wrong for them during the practice sessions on Saturday which with the way things have gone for the Hendrick teams this season would not surprise this fan one bit.)

At least this weekend hasn’t been dominated by the Joe Gibbs teams but, in this fan’s opinion, that doesn’t mean much considering the way they have been running most of this season. If things go as they have much of this season, there is likely going to be at least one or two of the JGR teams in the top ten and possibly one of them sitting in Victory Lane at the end of the day. Toyota fans have to be hoping the JGR teams haven’t peaked too early and will continue their dominance in the 2016 season right on through the Chase to Homestead.

From this fan’s view, it is quite likely this race is going to come down to a fuel mileage race along with some pit strategy to gain spots on the track. It is possible this could be one of the least exciting finishes in recent race weekends if there aren’t at least a couple of yellow flags to tighten the field back up near the end. Michigan is not generally known for having a lot of caution flags flying and it often does come down to consistent track position, pit strategy and fuel mileage when all is said and done.

Unless something totally unexpected happens during this one to mix things up, this fan doesn’t expect much to be different than the usual late summer race at Michigan. Well… that is unless someone like Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney or Chase Elliott is sitting in Victory Lane when it is over…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 27, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

It’s Saturday Night 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
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated