Martinsville Resets Chase to Eight From a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Martinsville resets the Chase to eight. That doesn’t mean there are eight new competitors qualified to compete for the Cup Championship; it just means there are four less actually competing for it. Over the next three races the field will be cut once again down to four and those four will compete head to head for the Championship at Homestead.

We all know the most recent Chase format has increased the fan interest in the final ten races of the season and the quest for the coveted Sprint Cup, but from this fan’s view, it has also increased the intensity of the competition and the stress levels of the drivers as they try to make the cut every three races until the final four at the finale. It seems they get a bit testy when things don’t go their way and they look for someone to blame for their lack of performance. Admittedly, there have been some interesting things happen during the last six weeks of Chase racing but some of the ones that don’t move on to the next level seem to look for someone to blame other than themselves. Those choices range from other drivers and their actions to NASCAR itself.

Although there have been times in this Chase other drivers have affected another’s ability to move on – like the Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth incident from a couple of weeks ago – for the most part the ones that haven’t moved on have caused their own demise. Some would argue that NASCAR’s rulings at Talladega kept Dale Jr. from moving on but that’s a whole other story and he accepted the results without blaming anyone other than circumstances. From this fan’s view, mistakes and lack of performance on the track and in the pits have been the culprits for most of the ones that haven’t made it to this Elimination round of eight.

So far in the 2015 Chase, no one has really been a match for Joey Logano. Although some haven’t liked his tactics, there is no arguing with his success and his winning all three of the races in round two. If he continues to dominate the way he has recently it may be no contest when it comes to the championship race at Homestead. Of course that little word “if” always looms large when it comes to racing. It has happened that a driver’s or team’s “racing luck” and performance can turn on a dime and someone else get on a hot streak.

There have been those that have mentioned that Logano has peaked too early and that is always a possibility although not very suspect at the time of this writing from this fan’s view. Although his teammate Brad Keselowski hasn’t had the same performance, (sometimes described as luck), it is possible the tables could turn for Joey in the same way – or Brad for that matter. Since Martinsville resets the points for those still in the Chase back to even, and Brad and Joey are two of the eight still in the Chase, stranger things have happened in NASCAR Cup racing.

There are two drivers that are pretty much flying under the radar so far in the Chase and that would be Kurt Bush and Martin Truex Jr. They haven’t been talked about or mentioned much lately but so far no one can argue they haven’t been performing consistently well and keeping themselves in the battle for the Championship at least points-wise. If nothing else, they could be the dark horses for being in the Finale at Homestead.

The two Joe Gibbs drivers still in the Chase, Carl Edwards and Kyle Bush, are great examples of what I just talked about with Joey Logano. Coming into the Chase, all four of the Joe Gibbs teams looked as if they were going to be the ones to beat for the Championship. Since the Chase started, the Gibbs teams haven’t looked as strong and they do look much less indestructible and Kenseth and Hamlin have already been eliminated. With the Martinsville reset, Edwards and Bush once again have a chance to flex some of the previous muscle they displayed earlier. It is also possible they could both not make it to the Finale at Homestead.

I’m not sure what to think about Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick as this Elimination round starts. Both have had their ups and downs during the first six races of the Chase and if they don’t show a little more consistency I am concerned whether they will make it to the Championship round. I have to admit, as a NASCAR fan, I would like nothing better than to see Jeff Gordon end his final season with his fifth Championship. I do think that would be a fitting end to a very successful career but I am not so sure he has the speed to compete with Joey Logano or Kevin Harvick for that matter.

One thing that bothers me about this race this weekend and that is the fact that there are several drivers that could win and some of them were once competing in the Chase before they were eliminated. Any of them could win this one and that could make it very interesting for those still qualified to go for the Championship.

As we enter into this Elimination round I have to admit that I do have a few favorites and a few “I hope they don’ts” if you know what I mean. Only one would really be a disappointment to me, but then that’s just me…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 31, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Talladega Damage Assessment From This NASCAR Fan’s View

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Talladega lived up to the expectations many people had for it even though many were upset when it was over. For much of the first three fourths of the race it was mildly interesting and almost caution free. Just because I say it was mildly interesting does not mean it was without intensity or drama if for no other reason than because of how the Chasers were moving in and out of the top eight in the points battle. That alone was entertaining but this fan was really looking forward to the last thirty to fifty laps because I was really interested in seeing how things were going to finish up and I expected some fireworks.

Before the race started, a whole lot of emphasis was put on the incident between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. I don’t see much of a reason to expand on it further here so I won’t but I do have to say once again as I have said since it happened, I expect that move to come back and haunt Logano more than once in the future. I would only bring up that anyone doubting that should go back and look at his teammate Brad K and his actions last season and this season. The only thing I can say for either one of them is that they will learn and mature and discover that wisdom comes with age. Many drivers say they are going to race others the way they race them but they find it difficult to admit they’ve stepped over a line. Respect is a hard thing to regain when you prove you cannot be respected and, like it or not, what you do on the track in the heat of the battle says a whole lot about your character. (There… I’ve said all I want to say about it and I’m done. Now we’ll just see how it all turns out.)

There seemed to be a lot of criticism of NASCAR when the race ended under caution but, honestly, this fan thinks they made the right calls, even though I am not a fan of ending a race under caution at any time other than for weather issues. It is my personal opinion that races, especially races with so much on the line as there was at Talladega should be ended under green racing conditions. I understand why they made the change to the
G-W-C but the change immediately pointed out its own shortcomings with what happened. I don’t envy NASCAR their job at all and they do a very good job overall. Personally and from this fan’s view, they may have to tweak the rule a time or two yet.

I do have to admit that I never expected Denny Hamlin to be one of those eliminated from moving on to the next round. With the strength the Joe Gibbs teams had been demonstrating over the last couple of months I just didn’t see it. Even more unexpected was that they knocked themselves out of the running with a mistake or two and a roof hatch problem. In reality, the roof hatch problem did the most damage to their chances. I guess it just goes to show that anything that can go wrong will go wrong and generally at the worst possible time. So now, at least for the Joe Gibbs teams it’s down to two, Carl Edwards and Kyle Bush.

Speaking of Carl Edwards and Kyle Bush, Carl has quietly been performing consistently and has shown that consistency pays good dividends. He hasn’t shown the same strength as Matt Kenseth or Joey Logano have recently but he definitely could come out of this with his first Championship. I’m not picking him – or anyone for that matter at this time – but his chances do look good up to this point. I guess we won’t actually know for sure until at least two of the races are done in the Elimination round. Let’s put it this way, he didn’t do himself any damage at Talladega and he is looking solid when it comes to the tracks in the next three weeks.

I’m sure Kyle is one of the happiest drivers in the group coming out of Talladega. Considering he was not at a likely contender at all after his accident at Daytona in February, he has made it this far in the Chase and that has to be encouraging in a couple of ways for him. First he has made it into round three and has as good a chance as anyone to go all the way to becoming Cup Champion as any of the remaining eight. Second, even with all of the lackluster finishes in the Chase so far, he is still in contention and that has to make him happy – well, at least somewhat, anyway.

That brings us to Ryan Newman and Dale Jr.

Ryan showed a lot of consistency but he never did look as though he had much of a chance at moving on. He may have been hoping for a repeat of last year but this year is different all round. His team just hasn’t shown the speed for me to ever think of him as a contender this year and I was surprised he made it as far as he did.

Dale Jr. did everything he needed to do except win at Talladega and he probably would have had the circumstances worked out just a little bit differently. In fact, I would say he was damaged the most by the way the last restarts went along with the changed G-W-C rules. Junior Nation is disappointed. I don’t blame them. He overcame a lot of adversity every time it reared its ugly head on Sunday afternoon and it really was disappointing to this NASCAR fan to have him eliminated in such a way as he was. He drove a great race and he was proud of his and his team’s performance. He didn’t whine or complain, he just accepted the way the cards fell and will move confidently and happily on to the next races and then on to next year.

Oh, and by the way… did anyone notice how happy Jeff Gordon was to be moving on to the next round??

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 27, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Chasers Face Uncertainty At Talladega from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Only thirteen points separate Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. The problem with that for both them and all of those in between them is Denny is second in points and Martin is eighth. I don’t remember in recent times so many Chasers facing such uncertainty for one race in the Chase. Since this is the third race in this second round of the 2015 Chase, four of the twelve drivers presently in contention will be eliminated from moving on into the next round. Well, I guess we could say four of the eleven since Joey Logano is already locked in to moving on to round three by winning two of the races in round two.

Okay, let me get this out of the way right up front. Thanks to Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth only has one chance to move on to round three of the 2015 Chase and that is to win. I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t know why that is the case and that includes those that watch football, too. Kenseth led the most laps last week and was leading when Logano made the decision to put him out. Some have said he just moved him out of the way but I think they are being very generous and are probably Joey Logano fans anyway. Oh and by the way, I guess you can tell, I am not but I won’t go into that here. Let’s just say I think that one move will one day come back to haunt him for several reasons, but I think I will have opportunity to talk about that someday in the future.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in the same boat although he just had a bad couple of finishes over the last two races rather than a run in with Logano. His only opportunity to move on into the next round is to win and that can’t make him or his fan’s very happy. It has to be disappointing for him since he was one of the favorites to be in the final round at Homestead as the Chase started.

I still say, as I did earlier in the week, if it comes down to the final lap and both he and Kenseth are in contention to win, it could make for a very interesting finish. Personally, I think both of them have a great chance to win Talladega but only one of them will move on by winning.

Ryan Newman and Kyle Bush just about have to win to make into the next round but they aren’t limited to only winning. With this being Talladega and the uncertainty everyone faces in a restrictor plate race, anything can happen and both of them could be vaulted back into contention IF the ones in second through eighth get caught up in a “Big One” or just have a bad day. Any way you look at it, both Newman and Bush have to finish up front or win to make it to round three.

Getting back to those thirteen points that separate the second in points from the eighth; anything can happen and two of them can be eliminated from the Chase for the Championship. None of them are guaranteed to be able to move on UNLESS they have decent finishes. One of the key words in that statement is, they have to “finish.” Depending on where they finish in the running order if they don’t finish the race could either allow them to move on or be eliminated.

One of the interesting things about those presently in the top eight is the tie in points for three of the bigger names. Of course those would be Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon. Since they are tied in points at the moment, any one or two of them could be eliminated from moving on if they have a bad finish. (Of course, we all know having a bad finish at Talladega is hardly possible for such big names and popular drivers… NOT!) The “Big One” could take any number of the Chasers out and, at this point, only one driver would not be affected even if he finished last and that would be Joey Logano.

From this fan’s view, this could be either one of the most exciting or most boring races at Talladega depending on what happens with those trying to not be eliminated from moving on in the Chase. I prefer to think this is going to be one of the most interesting restrictor plate races simply because so much is riding on it. Unless something happens to take those still able to make it into round three out early, the final laps on Sunday afternoon could and should be some of the most intense and dramatic laps at a restrictor plate track in a long time.

At the time of this writing, eleven still have a chance to make it into round three. Unfortunately four of them won’t make it and we may not have to wait until the checkered flag drops to know which ones it will be. I’m just wondering what the talk will be like after the race if someone other than one of the Chasers wins. Whatever happens, we won’t know which ones are moving on and this one won’t be over until it’s over…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 24, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Kansas Damage Assessment from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There is no one that doubts Kansas lived up to every ounce of the expected drama and intensity. Although it may be a bit too early to say it, the Chase just may be over for a couple of those that haven’t fared well in round two. One of those would be Matt Kenseth but, I’ll talk more about that shortly. However you look at the way the Chase is set up, you have to admit it is anything but business as usual when all is said and done. The intensity, the drama – all of it – is off the charts as far as keeping the fans interested throughout the Chase.

With Talladega looming this weekend, there are two things that are definite. One is that there is hardly any way (in fact many would say, “no way”) to predict which driver will win. It could be the one that desperately needs to win to be able to move on to the next round or it could be someone absolutely unexpected, maybe even someone that gets their first win in Sprint Cup. It is almost impossible to call or predict the winner. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of restrictor plate racing. The second thing is that Talladega is a race that four drivers will be eliminated from moving on to the third round of the 2015 Chase. As we have all heard many times already, Joey Logano is the only one that has absolutely no worries to face no matter where he finishes.

The four considered to be “on the bubble” after the race at Kansas are, Kyle Bush, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth. Only having one way to move on to the third round is Matt Kenseth. Points-wise that’s his only chance – he has to win Talladega. Dale Jr. is in the same boat; he has to win or he is eliminated and that presents a dilemma between the two right off the bat. The only way either of them can move on is to win and only one of them can. Tell me that won’t add to the intensity of every lap, especially when it comes close to dropping the checkered flag and the two of them are in position to win. Wow! That could be very interesting.

The other two on the bubble are Ryan Newman and Kyle Bush but their situation is quite a bit different. Either of them could win and move on or they could finish in the top three or so and just about guarantee they’d move on. Of course that depends on how seven of the eight ahead of them finish and it would mean that a couple of someones in the top eight would have to have terrible days or, at least reasonably terrible.

With only six to eight points separating the two of them from Martin Truex Jr. in eighth place, they have to finish up front and let the cards fall where they may. And don’t forget, there is a three way tie for fifth, sixth and seventh between Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski. From this fan’s view, that makes eight in very precarious situations and I imagine they are having a few stressful moments as they prepare for this weekend.

I just can’t close this one out without giving this fan’s view of the situation between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth. I have heard and read the views of many since Sunday’s race in Kansas and they are pretty much all over the map.

I have never changed my opinion since my own days of short track racing at my local tracks. We’ve all heard the cliché statements like “rubbing is racing” and that is supposed to be one of the cover all statement for moving someone out of the way. Another would be “using the chrome horn” which is another way of saying “putting the bumper” to someone slower than another.

My opinion is that “rubbing is racing” and that there is a big difference between putting the bumper to someone to win and spinning someone out to win. When you use the “chrome horn” you usually move someone out of the way but they don’t generally end up spinning out or into the wall. You’re just letting them know you’re there and you usually give them more than one warning before you do. In this case, I think a lot of it has to do with the maturity level (or the lack of it) of Joey Logano. He is still young and is a talented driver but his attitude is one of win at any cost and, it is my opinion, it will come back to haunt him in the days and seasons ahead. I have no problem with him being really competitive and it will serve him in the near future but, if it continues, he won’t win much respect from those he drives with and he won’t make too many friends.

All of these drivers know how to win and win cleanly but they also know how to take someone out. It is a choice they make to either race someone or just run over them. Many of them choose to not run over but they are not above moving them when they need to.

My hat is off to Matt Kenseth for the maturity and restraint he showed during and after the race at Kansas. It is my opinion he showed what makes him a champion and he showed what his character is. He may not win this coming weekend at Talladega but he also knows his time will come in two ways. First, he will likely win another Sprint Cup Championship and, second, a time for a little payback to Joey Logano will come and he will “choose” to take advantage of it or let it go. Personally, I think he’ll take the opportunity to educate Joey Logano about another old adage… “What goes around, comes around,” which is just another way of saying, “You reap what you sow…”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 20, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Expect High Intensity at Kansas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the race Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway will be intense. In fact, I would go so far as to say there just might be a sense of desperation in the intensity level especially for those that didn’t run and finish all that well last weekend.

If you’ve been listening to the Chase drivers this week, you’ve heard most, if not all, of them talking about this second round of three races in the Chase. It is their opinion this is the most intense round and all twelve of them want to make it to round three. We all know that’s not going to happen since only eight of the twelve still in the Chase will move on.

For some, that’s more than stressful and for others, it’s downright frustrating and they know they have to perform well in this weekend’s race at Kansas and hope for the best at Talladega next weekend. Well, that is unless one of last week’s poor performers wins. Then they will be able to slip into Talladega with only having to worry about what happens to them after Kansas all the way into round three. I think to simplify what I am saying is that they want to be one of the eight trying for the final four.

As I stated in the mid-week article/podcast, the only one that doesn’t have to worry or stress out over this race in the Chase is Joey Logano. Since he is already qualified for round three, he could run one lap, blow his engine, hit the wall hard and still move on. I don’t think he would want to do all of that but he could and it wouldn’t make any difference to his situation. For the rest of the twelve still in the Chase, it’s still about winning or finishing as close to the front as they can.

As an observer, it is this fan’s view that the Hendrick teams have to be at least somewhat disappointed with their performance so far. The way their year started and the way it is finishing are worlds apart. I know it is usual for there to be an ebb and flow amongst the teams but peaking at the beginning of the year and struggling at the end is not something that sits well for any teams or organization.

Take for example Kasey Kahne. He didn’t make the Chase and his year has been dismal to say the least. Even when he shows up and qualifies well, he has generally had mediocre to poor finishes. This week at Kansas hasn’t started any better but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance to win. What it means is this fan doesn’t expect him to.

I can’t say the same for Jimmy Johnson even though he is no longer in the Chase either. He is always a possible winner but hasn’t had very good racing luck recently. From this fan’s view, it is hoped that he doesn’t win and take away a chance for one of the Chasers to get back into the hunt or seal their deal for making round three, in particular one of his own teammates.

Dale Jr. is sort of on the bubble and needs to win or have a really good run in the Hollywood Casino 400 tomorrow. Since he didn’t show much in the first practice and qualifying on Friday, one can only think they are a little stressed and their intensity level will be quite elevated considering Talladega looming next week with no guarantees of finishing well or at all.

The only one showing real promise from the Hendrick camp at the moment is Jeff Gordon. Don’t get me wrong, his performances haven’t been earthshaking but he has been consistently finishing in the top fifteen and higher when he needed to. I suppose we could put all of that responsibility at the driver’s feet but my opinion is that it is just because the whole organization is a little behind the curve at the moment. I’m sure all of them at Hendrick are hoping they are on the road to recovery so they might once again be considered the ones to beat week in and week out.

Brad Keselowski showed a lot of strength in the practice and qualifying sessions and, had it not been for the written warnings they received keeping them from being able to choose their pit stalls, I think he might have just walked away with the win this weekend. As it stands, there is a bit of uncertainty about that. Even though he starts on the pole, his pit stall is going to cost him every time they have to stop simply because they won’t have the number one pit stall. That just might not be a good thing when it comes down to the end of the race.

As I said at the beginning of this one, expect the intensity to be extreme if for no other reason that so much is riding on this race for so many. The elimination round isn’t set yet and, with the uncertainties that surround running at Talladega, only one driver is guaranteed to be in it so far and that makes the other eleven want to win this one at Kansas…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 17, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

After Charlotte Damage Assessment from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The rain out of the planned Saturday night race and running it in the afternoon on Sunday wasn’t at all good for some of the Chasers. Not many will admit it, but the time of day probably had at least something to do with the results and how well they adapted to the time change also figured into where the Chasers finished. Of course we all know racing luck isn’t talked about much either but it sure appeared it played a big part in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. Some of what happened could possibly be attributed to the time of day but mostly, it was just bad decision making and racing luck… well, at least from this fan’s view that’s what it appeared to be.

The ones that suffered the most damage to their hopes of moving on were Matt Kenseth, Dale Jr. and Kyle Bush. That doesn’t mean they’re out of it but it does mean they really can’t afford another bad finish in this second round of the Chase.

Looking at the assessed damage, Matt Kenseth finished forty-second and dropped eleven spots in the standings, seriously jeopardizing his chances for making it to the Elimination round. He will either have to have a win or get some serious help from the other Chasers in the next two races of this second round. Unless he does really well at Kansas this coming weekend I don’t think he will like going to Talladega having to have a win. I find it interesting how quickly fortunes can change with this Chase format. It seems it does force teams to make decisions when things happen and take chances they normally wouldn’t take. Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendency for some bad decisions to be made and it is really causing some real drama as things progress.

Speaking of bad decisions, Kyle Bush and Kyle Larson outfoxed themselves at the entrance of pit road and it kind of ruined both of their days. Kyle Larson was running in the top five and ended up finishing twenty-first because of the miscalculation. The way he was running it was possible he could have won his first race – although it probably wasn’t likely. Kyle Bush didn’t fair too well after the incident either and he finished twentieth. Both of them were a lap down at the end of the day. Kyle has been struggling a bit in the Chase (which he seems prone to do) but at the moment he is tenth in the standings just ahead of Dale Jr. and Matt Kenseth.

After the way Dale Jr. surged on the last restart last weekend to just make it into round two by one position over Jamie McMurray, I don’t think many expected him to have as bad a day as he had. Once it started to go wrong for him though, it didn’t get much better as the race progressed. In the end, Jr. pointed out that NASCAR may have missed some oil during one of the later cautions and that really sent the rest of his day into a nosedive. It is this fan’s opinion that NASCAR could have been at fault but Jr. was having a bad enough day that it really didn’t make that much difference anyway. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though.

Jimmie Johnson’s bad luck continued into this week from last week and his blown engine would have probably happened even if he was still in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. From my view, it probably was a good thing that he was already out before Charlotte because coming back from his latest finish would have been even more difficult with Talladega looming ahead in round two. Now the #48 team can work on their performance for next season without much stress at all. With way things are going for them this season, it doesn’t look like they have much else to do other than ride out this time where they appear to be struggling. Besides, their whole situation could change next race even though it won’t matter that much till next season.

Looking at the Charlotte race, it only took one race for a lot of the landscape in the Chase to change. Two of the Joe Gibbs Teams are now on the ropes of making it to round three along with Dale Jr. and Ryan Newman. With the way things have gone so far in the 2015 Chase, it is a little early to count any of them out if for no other reason than everything can completely change again over the next two races.

We already know the intensity has been stepped up a notch or two for both Kansas and Talladega and there are some that just can’t afford another bad finish. One thing is definite for the coming two weeks in this round two of the Chase though; the only two that won’t be feeling much stress when looking forward to Talladega will be Joey Logano and the one that wins this weekend at Kansas…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 14, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Reset To Twelve and Start Again At Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Saturday night under the lights… There’s no better way to make the transition from sixteen to twelve and start all over again. That’s exactly what’s going to happen tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Say what you will but one thing is certain, the Chase format certainly makes for a very intense and dynamically dramatic run for the coveted Sprint Cup Championship.

I don’t think it is just the Chase format that makes it the way it is but also the way the races are set up in the schedule. Because Talladega is included in this second round of three races makes everyone of those still in the Chase for the Championship all the more determined to get a win or at least rack up as many points as they can before they hit the super speedway in Alabama. We often hear the drivers mention what it’s like running the restrictor plates at Talladega. They spend a lot of time running laps and trying to avoid getting into trouble, either their own or someone else’s, until the last ten to twenty five laps.

If you think about it, these next two races just may be the most intense of the three races in this second round of the Chase. You may be asking why I would say that. My answer would quite simply be, because of Talladega. That’s why I mentioned earlier about the teams in this Challengers round wanting to get as many points as they can or possibly a win either at Charlotte or Kansas. With the restrictor plate race adding so much insecurity to the mix, this basically becomes a two race round with a great big Wild Card race the drivers and teams have to face to possibly move on to the next round.

Add to all of this intensity what it might be like should non-Chasers win either one or both of the next two races. That would mean there would be twelve teams going to Talladega either having to win or finish very near the front to have any hope at all of being one of the eight to move on to round three of the Chase. If you’ve been listening to any of the Chasers this week, that is not a scenario any of them want to face. That’s just another reason this fan thinks the next two races will be two of the most intense; no one wants to go to Talladega having to do anything other than finish as best they can without having to worry if they will perform well enough to make it to round three.

Speaking of being worried, some of the drivers are beginning to show signs of the stress getting to them and they are concerned about their performance and whether or not they have enough speed to be competing for the win either at Charlotte or Kansas.

One of those might be Jeff Gordon and, from this fan’s view, he must be disappointed with his qualifying performance yesterday. It just doesn’t appear he is one of the real challengers yet. It would be nice if his #24 Chevy was showing something even close to what Kevin Harvick’s is. One would think that since they are both driving Hendrick equipment (even though under different owners and terms) they might be close in performance. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t appear to be the case. Both of the Stewart/Haas teams, Kurt Bush and Kevin Harvick, seem to be running better than the Hendrick teams overall and Kevin Harvick appears to have them all covered at the moment.

I’m at a loss to even offer a guess as to who might win this one. Both the Joe Gibbs and Stewart/Haas teams figure in pretty heavily for being at or near the front at the drop of the checkered flag but Charlotte has often been a place for surprise winners. I can’t really discount the Penske or Hendrick teams either since all of them looked good in the final practice.

Could this be one of the Chase races that will be won by a non-Chaser or one of the teams eliminated from the Chase after last weekend’s race? Well, I’m just not sure but I am sure that what I stated earlier. This race at Charlotte will be filled with intensity and drama from the beginning to the end and I look forward to it. I think we will see intensity and drama on every pit stop and I do expect individual strategies to play a major part in who finishes at or near the front and those that don’t…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 10, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

After Dover Damage Assessment from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Considering how races on the Monster Mile at Dover have gone in the past, Chase race three was relatively sane in comparison but intense just the same. Of course this fan isn’t naïve enough to think everyone will agree with that statement. I have seen races there that have had many more mishaps and crumpled up cars causing possible race winners to lose out because of being laps down or off the track because of the mishaps – but this one was different.

The race still had a lot of drama in it but it just wasn’t the same type race that I or others expected, especially with it being a race that would eliminate four drivers when it was over. I wouldn’t say it was boring but it was, at times, often uneventful. Of course that could have had a lot to do with how hard it is to pass on the Monster. More likely it had a lot to do with the completely dominating performance of Kevin Harvick and his #4 Stewart Haas team. He led over 350 laps and for most of the afternoon there was hardly any doubt he was going to win. When the chips are down, you can feel pretty secure that Kevin Harvick will step up to the plate and do whatever it takes to overcome the obvious obstacles to move ahead. It is something we have all come to expect from him so it is no surprise to this fan that he won.

When the race began, there was plenty of speculation on his situation and whether or not he would be moving on to the next round of the Chase. Before the green flag dropped he was starting in fifteenth place and didn’t necessarily need to win but did have to finish near the front to make it to the next round of the Chase. He wasted no time in moving to the front and soon moved into the lead. As the race progressed, things changed in a big way. The way the contenders were running in the field eventually showed he had no choice but to win if he was going to move on and that is probably one thing that began to hold everyone’s interest as the race progressed to its conclusion.

It really wasn’t hard to figure out Clint Bowyer’s situation – he had to win. With the way he had been running most of the year, this fan did think he would be the first to go. The penalty points didn’t help him at all and he would have had to show a lot more speed than he had in recent weeks. With the dominating performance of Kevin Harvick from the drop of the green flag, Clint never had a chance.

Jimmie Johnson was the biggest loser at Dover and even though we all knew it was a possibility for any of the contenders, I don’t think anyone expected him to not be moving on. In fact I even mentioned it in my last article/podcast. I spoke of the ones that were a fairly safe bet to move on to the next round if disaster didn’t strike. Included were the names Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson. As it turned out, Jimmie Johnson is the one that got bit. He finished thirty-six laps down.

While we’re talking about the Hendrick teams, other than Jimmie Johnson both Dale Jr, and Jeff Gordon were part of the drama at the end of the race and whether or not either of them would be moving on. Had it not been for an aggressive move to pass Jamie McMurray on the outside by Dale Jr., he would not have moved on to the next round of the Chase with a chance to contend for the Championship. Although he and McMurray ended up in a tie, the tie was broken by the fact that Dale Jr. finished ahead of him so Jamie was eliminated and Jr. moves on.

It appeared Jeff Gordon was safe going into the last restart but, as has been the case with his racing luck this season, he almost didn’t finish good enough to move on to the next round either. He finished twelfth and only made it in by two points. After it was over, this fan thought he looked stressed but relieved to be moving on to the round two reset at Charlotte next weekend.

Even though they were part of the intensity and drama of the Dover race, all four of the Joe Gibbs teams are moving on to the next round of eliminations over the next three races. It is still possible they could be the four racing to win the Championship at the finale in Homestead although I’m still not ready to make that a definite statement. I do think four others besides Kevin Harvick intend to make sure that doesn’t happen and of course those would be Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

So… where does that leave Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Bush and Ryan Newman? Well, that’s what I’m trying to decide myself… It could be they will be the spoilers.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 6, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

It’s Elimination Time at Dover from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Eliminations begin this weekend at Dover Delaware and with the rain out of a practice and qualifying, things could be very interesting, especially for the Challengers in the Chase. The only ones that don’t have to be concerned with where they finish would be Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. Because of qualifying being rained out the field was set by the standings according to the rules and that could make it even more of a challenge for the Chase drivers needing good finishes or a win and having to start further back in the field.

Chase race three is a turning point for the Chasers and this fan thinks the intensity for the race this weekend is going to be beyond belief, especially for the ones that are in a situation of possibly not qualifying to move on to the next segment. That means more of the Chase contenders than just Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Other than those two, Kyle Bush and Paul Menard are first on the list of having to finish at or near the front. They sit in thirteenth and fourteenth place in the standings at the moment but only one point separates them from twelfth.

Dale Jr. is in twelfth place and Junior Nation is more than a little hopeful he can at least stay there. With the way he has performed this season, for him not to advance to the next round of the Chase would be more than a disappointment to both him and his fans. With the lack of practice and qualifying, it is difficult to say how well he will perform when they actually get to race. Dover isn’t an easy track to set up for and, from this fan’s view, more drivers and teams than Dale Jr’s will be affected. Oh I know they’ve all been here earlier this year but that doesn’t change the facts that Dover is a track that changes all the time. Whether it is from all the rain and the “green” track or how it changes when it begins to rubber up, all of the teams will face challenges all through this one.

I don’t want to go through all of the individual drivers in the Chase and whether or not they will qualify to move on to the next round. Up to this time the sixteen drivers have been considered Challengers but for the next three races after Dover they become Contenders. Only twelve of them have a chance to move on after this one. Which ones those twelve will be depends on how they finish the race at Dover.

We already know Kenseth and Hamlin will move on. Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson appear to be fairly safe bets to make it to the Contender round but an unexpected bad day for any of these three, however remote it may seem, could spell disaster for them. In reality, they should make it but some very bizarre things have happened so far in the last two races. All it takes is finishing in the rear and they’re done.

It really begins to get interesting when considering the grid from Ryan Newman on back to Jamie McMurray in eleventh (since I’ve already mentioned Dale Jr’s situation.) From Newman to Harvick, anything can happen to jumble up the grid. Although it is much more likely to see something happen between those from McMurray to Menard, from this fan’s view, nothing can be ruled out until things actually get rolling.

When it comes down to it, Kevin Harvick can get in to the next round by winning or finishing near the front and others ahead of him struggling and finishing badly. Clint Bowyer has to win to make it in. That’s the only chance he has and that could prove to make it interesting if he is running with someone for the win at the end.

That’s probably what will make this race so dramatic and why there will be quite a difference in the intensity throughout. Those that need to move up into the top twelve to make it into the Contender round will have a different mentality when it comes to moving someone out of their way that might be keeping them from that spot that would put them in the top twelve. We’ve seen it happen in the past and I expect it will happen in this race and in the future.

This could also mean there might be some really intense emotions displayed during and after this one is over. When you mix the competitiveness and adrenaline along with the intensity and the need to move on to the next round, some things just can’t be predicted. If anyone thought that the “discussion” between Harvick and Johnson a couple of weeks ago was something, look out for what happens during this one that might help any of the drivers get eliminated…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 3, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

After New Hampshire Damage Assessment from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The end of the Sylvania 300 had a lot of “what ifs” in it and, from this fan’s view, those “what ifs” make a world of difference as we leave Chase race two in the rear view and look forward to the week ahead. As expected, Chase race two at New Hampshire was an exciting short track race with a lot of drama to spare right down to the final laps. Some of the Chasers faired well and some… well, let’s just say they’d really like to take a Mulligan.

Of course, we all know they can’t and they’re going to have to hustle in the last of the first three races in the Chase if they want to move on to the next round. The problem with New Hampshire for some is that the only way to correct the damage is to win this coming weekend and the intensity will be doubled or tripled for them. No matter how hard they try, only one person can win and perhaps change their 2015 Chase destiny and the others will fall by the wayside because four drivers will be eliminated when this coming weekend is done.

Getting back to the “what ifs” for a few moments; what if Kevin Harvick’s crew chief had made a different decision about his fuel situation? It is hard to say where he might have finished had they gone ahead and bit the bullet and stopped for fuel. It is true they made it to within three laps of the finish but, because they ran out of fuel, it took them much longer to get to the pits, refuel and get back on the track than it would have if they had made it a planned stop a few laps earlier. I realize it is the Chase and you have to take chances but they were already in the situation of needing a win or at least a very good finish.

Now I know there are those of you listening or reading this that say the #4 team wouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for Jimmie Johnson getting into him last weekend which resulted in another poor finish. That’s just another of those things I call “what ifs” and deals with a thing called racing luck. As I stated in last week’s Damage Assessment, it is my opinion (and I know I’m not alone in this) that they made a very bad decision last weekend also.

Just to refresh the scene a little from last week at Chicagoland, they ran four laps after the contact with Jimmie Johnson resulted in a tire rub with an extreme amount of smoke pouring from the car. It was my stated opinion they should have gone ahead and come into the pits, inspected the damage and repaired what they could and left with new tires and a full tank of fuel. By doing that they may have been a couple of laps down (which they could have possibly made up) and not have been in such a desperate situation coming into New Hampshire. Because of the decision they made at Chicagoland they ended up over fifty-five laps down and it moved them way down in the Chase grid standings. They blamed Jimmie Johnson for their problems and I still see it as a “what if” they had done it differently and finished better. (Of course I have to admit, I do love my job as a Monday morning crew chief. It is much less stressful.)

Every NASCAR and Kevin Harvick fan knows that he won’t throw in the towel and that the he and his #4 team will do everything they can to win this coming weekend but all of us also know it is do or die if they want to stay in contention and move on to the next round of the Chase.

The problem is that he isn’t the only one that needs to stay in contention and there is no guarantee he will. I’m sure Clint Bowyer will show up with the same intentions as Harvick. It is my opinion his chances are quite a bit slimmer than Harvick’s but that won’t change the intensity of how they approach the upcoming race. They both need a win to get in although Harvick could slip in IF there is a major shakeup in the standings above him.

Kyle Bush seems to be “enjoying” his usual Chase racing luck (and I stress that I am saying that with sarcasm) and he sits in thirteenth place after New Hampshire. He doesn’t have to win but he does need a good finish in the race ahead. The same goes for Paul Menard. Both of them are only a point out of the top twelve but neither of them can afford to have a bad race. At the very least, they both need to finish a couple of spots or so ahead of Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention Dale Jr. is in twelfth spot in the Grid standings because he ran out of fuel at New Hampshire? “What if” they would have made a quick stop for a splash of gas instead? Hm-m-m-m… “What if” he has a bad day in Dover…?

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 30, 2015 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Chasers Taking On New Hampshire For Chase Race Two from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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It’s already quite evident that the newest Chase format is doing what it was supposed to do since it was instituted last season and continues on through this one. Tensions and emotions are running very high and we’ve only had one race. This second race in the Chase at New Hampshire takes on its own significance and the only one that doesn’t appear to be very stressed this weekend is Denny Hamlin.

One other driver in the JGR camp that seems to have a lot of confidence going into this weekend is Carl Edwards. He took the pole position which was a repeat of what he did at the earlier race in July. Apparently the Gibbs teams are still thriving on the momentum of their performance over the last few months or so. At this track in July they made a very good showing with Kyle Bush taking the win and Kenseth and Edwards finishing in the top ten. (I guess it’s a good thing Denny won last weekend since he was the worst finisher for JGR in July at fourteenth.) Even though all of JGR didn’t make a good showing in qualifying, they still seem pretty confident with their race setups and possibilities.

Kevin Harvick has come to New Hampshire to make up for his bad finish last weekend at Chicagoland. Judging from his performance so far this weekend, I’d say he’s shown up ready to make his presence known. We all know how disappointed he was and that he thought he was wronged by Jimmie Johnson (though some of the blame should probably go to Jimmie, from this fan’s view there is plenty of blame to go around for both of them.) Even though last week’s incident is water over the dam, this fan thinks some thoughts of payback might resurface during the race if the opportunity presents itself. Of course, Kevin knows he can’t let that keep him from his main goal of qualifying for the next round in the Chase so I do think that main goal will override those thoughts. At any rate, he did qualify on the front row for the start of the Sunday’s race. That in itself could give a glimpse of how things might go by the time the checkered flag drops.

Kurt Bush has been quietly flying below the radar and qualified third for the start of the Sunday’s Sylvania 300. After finishing third in last week’s race, at least according to points, he looks pretty solid to move on to the next round in the Chase. Well, that is depending on how he does on Sunday. The thing about this format for the Chase is it doesn’t leave much room for bad finishes. All it takes is a finish like Harvick had last week and Kurt could be in the same boat. With the consistency he’s shown recently, I really don’t expect that to happen.

I think one of the things that puzzles me most so far is the performance of the Hendrick teams. They just haven’t shown the usual strength that always seems to surface around Chase time. It might be a little bit early to start counting them out but after this weekend one or more of them might be in a position of having to win to make it in to the next round.

That can’t be a pleasant thought for them considering they appear to this fan to have been struggling over the last ten races or so. It is unusual, although not unheard of, for them to struggle a bit at times but for none of them to be showing up as contenders at this point has to be cause for concern. I keep hearing the rumblings that Dale Jr has a good chance to win the Championship this year but without them improving their performance and finishes, I just don’t see it happening. Yeah, I do realize we’ve only had one Chase race so far but time is definitely running out for all three of them.

 

I think it has to be particularly disappointing for Jeff Gordon to run good in a race and finish poorly at the end. Last week he went from the front all the way back to fourteenth in just a couple of laps. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) he did manage to stay in the top twelve in points but I don’t think he wants to go out of this year as an also ran. He and his fans, for that matter, would much rather see him go out on top.

At this point he isn’t even really contending, he’s just scraping by and for a four time cup champ with a bunch of wins I’m sure he would like much more. For Jeff Gordon, it is about winning, something he hasn’t been able to do this season even though he has been close. Although he will prove himself to be an iron man of sorts when he starts this race and becomes the driver with the most consecutive starts without missing one, he wants more. He has accomplished a lot as a premier driver in this sport and I’m sure this is one title he can appreciate but still, he wants more. He won’t want to be remembered as driving in his last Chase for a Cup championship as one that just showed up and quietly rode off into the sunset and faded away. It is this fan’s opinion he would not only like to win this weekend but would also like to be contending for the Sprint Cup Championship as a part of the final four at Homestead in November. Anything less just doesn’t sound like Jeff Gordon. Will he make it? Well, that remains to be seen.

Earlier in the season he was asked if he “had to win” and he answered with an answer from the heart of a true champion. He said, “I don’t have to win… I want to win!” At New Hampshire this weekend he doesn’t have to win… he wants to win and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 26, 2015 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Assessing the Damage After Chicagoland from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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All things considered after the first race in the Chase was completed at Chicagoland last weekend, things pretty much stayed the same except for a few changes in the grid standings. Of course I know there are more than a few that might disagree with me on that but seriously, not all that much changed.

A quick look at the way things shape up since Sunday shows the JGR teams still on everyone’s list to advance to the next round by either winning or staying in the top twelve in points. Denny Hamlin surprised everybody by taking the win considering how his day started and progressed until the final laps. Carl Edwards finished second behind his teammate Hamlin and Matt Kenseth admitted he wasn’t having a stellar day but ended up with a good finish by taking fifth. The surprising thing about the JGR teams was they didn’t even look like they were going to figure into the final results until very near the end of the race. Kyle Bush finished the worst of the four JGR teams with a ninth place.

Ryan Newman had a very solid day and moved into eighth place in the standings with his fourth place finish. It remains to be seen if he stays as solid as he did last year without winning a race but always moving on to the next rounds by having the points. For him, this fan thinks Chicagoland was good to him (which has very little to do with moving on to the next round but does keep him in the running for the Championship at this point.)

Kurt Bush had a very good day and moved up to fifth in the standings with his third place finish. I expected both of the Stewart-Haas teams to do well and both probably would have except for Kevin Harvick having a problem on one of the restarts early on.

There has been a lot of talk since the end of the race on Sunday and much of it has centered around the dust-up between Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Harvick seemed to think that Johnson just wanted to move him out of the way and did so. I don’t know what he thought after he saw the replays of the restart but it was very obvious he was quite upset about it. It was even more obvious when he and Jimmie Johnson had their “discussion” about it away from the crowds.

As a fan, I have no idea what their conversation was or which one of them was in the wrong but one thing I do know for sure… it definitely showed just how much pressure there is on each of them to perform and make it to the next round in the Chase and they only have two more races to do so.

Admittedly, Harvick did have a car that was likely going to be a contender in the closing laps and he could have won. He was also the biggest loser in the situation with Jimmie. I’m just a NASCAR fan and I’m not trying to take up for Jimmie but, I didn’t see it the same way that Harvick did. I did see Joey Logano giving a strong push to Johnson and I saw Harvick move down to block. As others have stated, if Johnson hadn’t pulled down inside of Harvick, he would have likely run into Harvick and who knows what the outcome would have been if it would have happened that way. I also don’t understand why his crew didn’t call him in after the contact considering the amount of smoke being generated from the tire rub.

From my view, had they called him in, at least he would have only been a lap or two down. Instead, they left him out, he blew the tire that was rubbing because of the damage and that put him down 55 plus laps. From the point of the contact with Johnson, his team made a really bad decision and it compounded the problems they already had. In this fan’s opinion, that’s what caused him to finish last and moved him all the way back to sixteenth in points and adds extra pressure on him and his team for the race coming up this weekend in New Hampshire.

At one point in the racing, it looked as though the Hendrick teams were all going to finish in the top ten and that Jeff Gordon might walk away with his first win of the season. As it was, he went from the front row on the last restart all the way back to fourteenth. Of the three Hendrick cars in the Chase, he was last with Johnson eleventh and Dale Jr. twelfth. No matter how you look at it, for them that had to hurt.

One thing that can be said about the racing from Chicagoland is the racing was intense and the Chaser’s were definitely aggressive from the drop of the green flag. If that gives any insight into the coming races, this is going to be a very intense nine weeks coming up and to tell the truth, I can’t wait…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 23, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions