About Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.

Who’ll Be The Monster Tamer

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The one-mile high banked oval track at Dover is called the Monster Mile and it came by that nickname honestly. Even though The Monster Mile is a one-mile oval, it seems that the drivers spend most of their time in the turns. The speeds are high and the G forces on the drivers are high, especially as they traverse those high banked turns and the wear and tear on drivers and equipment throughout the day often determines who wins the race. All of the above can contribute to the overall outcome and in particular, can often determine the emotional state of the drivers when the race is over.

Over the years of racing at the Monster Mile there have been many “Monster Tamers” and some of them have been better at it than many of the others. Jimmie Johnson comes to mind as one of those and he has a very high winning average when it comes to the Monster Mile at Dover. There’s no reason to go into a long-winded discussion of his winning statistics at this track but I do think that it needs to at least be mentioned that he’s probably one of the drivers to beat Sunday afternoon. He’s not the only one and I’m not saying he’s going to win; but there is a good chance that he will be at or near the front when it comes down to those final few laps.

Even though Jimmie Johnson should be high on the shortlist of who might win Sunday afternoon, there are several others that intend (at least hopefully) to make sure that he doesn’t get another victory to add to his many others at this track. Among those would be Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Kevin Harvick. Now that’s a pretty strong shortlist of possible winners and there are several others that could be added to it and probably should be. In fact it’s awfully hard to discount Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth or Clint Bowyer from that list and any one of those three could walk away with the victory.

From this fan’s view, this could be one of the most tightly contested races in recent times at the Dover track. Not only are there drivers that have proven their ability to tame the Monster but the cars are running faster than ever on this track and the lap times are very close together also. I’m not willing to say that someone may not walk away with it because there are a couple that are running very strong according to the practice and qualifying sessions.

Of course anyone who’s been paying even the slightest bit of attention this weekend would recognize that I’m talking about Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Either one of them could win and of the two, Kyle might be the more likely candidate. It doesn’t always follow that just because he does win in the Truck Series that he will win everything else he competes in on the weekend but, he does run well at the Monster. Having said that, it does still appear that the Joe Gibbs Toyotas have been struggling a bit so far this season. I’m sure that’s because they’re trying different things (or at least that’s what they would like us to believe) that will hopefully help them when they get to The Chase.

There are a couple of noticeable things going on as well in the practice sessions in particular and that may make for the possibility of someone completely unexpected winning Sunday afternoon’s race. Is it possible that this could be the weekend that Marcos Ambrose wins? In the later two practice sessions, he was much improved over his qualifying efforts. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he will win but he could be the one to end up in victory Lane when all is said and done.

There are a lot of things to take into account for winning the race on Sunday afternoon and it seems that it always comes down to these few things. First of all, at least from this fan’s view, track position is going to be more important than anything else all day long. With the speeds being as close as they are it is hard to imagine someone not having a very good chance at winning if they’ve been running at or near the front all day long. That brings us to the second important item which would be pit stops. The pit crews always have a lot of pressure on them these days but this Sunday afternoon is definitely going to be as pressure packed as any.

I really hate to bring up this third thing and I don’t really have any grounds for feeling or thinking the way I do but I’m concerned about the tires once again. With the speeds being is high as they are and the new track record this year at Dover, I just can’t shake the thought that tires might become an issue at some point in the race. I’m not blaming Goodyear nor am I saying that they’re not doing a good job, but I am saying that this year has been a new learning curve for them when it comes to these cars with the increased downforce and the stresses that it puts on the four items that hook up all of that horsepower to the track which is the tires. There may not be any failures but the possibility does have to be considered.

Of all the races at the Monster Mile in my recent memory, this is one of the ones that is difficult to choose a winner of before the race is run. Sure, I know there are a lot of names out there, well-known names, of possible choices for the winner but it just isn’t easy to pick one with so many possibilities available. In this fan’s opinion it’s going to come down to which one has the best tires if there is a late race caution and from my view that makes this one a real toss of the dice and hard to call…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 31, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Charlotte’s the Place for NASCAR’s Longest Race

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Memorial Day is a day we remember the men and women that made the supreme sacrifice while serving in active military service. It is celebrated in several ways by people across the United States but probably two of the best known ways are the Indianapolis 500 in Indiana and the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Of course there are those that don’t even think these two items have anything at all to do with Memorial Day and remembering our fallen military heroes and they may have a point; but it is a day that both places take time to remember and honor them and that is a good thing.

For Kurt Busch, this Memorial Day will be quite possibly “The Longest Day.” He intends to run in both the Indianapolis 500 and in the Coca-Cola 600 and that means if he runs every mile in both races he will have driven 1100 miles before the day is done. I don’t know about you but from this fan’s you that’s covering a lot of miles in a very short period of time.

Danica Patrick has been drawing attention to herself lately for her performance on the track at Kansas and her performance in qualifying at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. I’m not saying she’s going to win the race on Sunday afternoon and evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it is good to see her showing some improvement in areas. Constant, steady improvement is what she’s been showing but I don’t think anyone expects her to run off a string of victories anytime soon.

Dale Junior is looking to put many years of frustration behind him at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend and would like nothing better than to beat his teammate, Jimmy Johnson, and take his first cup victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Honestly, from this fan’s view it is awfully hard to believe that Dale Junior has never won at CMS in the cup series. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that barring any unforeseen circumstances Dale Junior will make a good showing Sunday evening when it comes down to the last laps.

Jeff Gordon is another one that hasn’t really had all that good of luck at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Even though it is the place that he had his first Sprint Cup Victory, if my recollection is correct, he hasn’t won there since 1998. If anyone is due to win again at CMS in this fan’s opinion it would be Jeff Gordon.

Jeff has been having a stellar year even though he has had some bad finishes. It’s been a good season so far with mostly top fives and top tens. It has been interesting to say the least, to see him not only get a victory but also sitting in the top spot of the points for The Chase this year. Until he had a victory it was almost imperative that he stay on top of the points if he wanted to make the Chase.

Fortunately for him (and his fans) Jeff is a force to be reckoned with this year and a very strong contender for winning the Cup Championship as well as possibly making this the year he takes his fifth. Of course I do have to mention that he has a lot of work to do with his 27th starting position in the Coca Cola 600.

This fan also finds it interesting how much talk has been going around about how long it’s been since Jimmie Johnson won his last race. Sometimes, it just becomes completely wearying to listen to people go on and on about how long it’s been since somebody won a race. In Jimmie Johnson’s case, he may silence all those voices this weekend since he is starting on the pole. I guess it just remains to be seen if he will be at the front when the end of the race comes around and the checkered flag drops.

Kevin Harvick is one that might make it difficult for Jimmy Johnson to come home with the trophy this weekend. There is no doubt that Kevin Harvick likes Hendrick horse power and his new place of employment at Stewart/Haas racing. He is another that is been having a stellar year so far in 2014 and I expect he will be a contender for the Cup Championship also. It still remains to be seen if after traveling 600 miles he can take home his third Coca-Cola 600.

In fact, I’m sure you’ve noticed that much of the talk this week has been about the strength of the Hendrick power plants. They have definitely been a force to be dealt with almost on a weekly basis in this 2014 season. I really don’t expect that to change much this weekend but I do have to admit the Fords and the Toyotas have also been showing a little bit more muscle especially from the Michael Waltrip camp and Clint Bowyer.

I guess this is the place where I should mention the Joe Gibbs camp also. Kyle Busch has a very good chance of ending up In Victory Lane, Sunday evening and possibly even Matt Kenseth.

The Coca-Cola 600 is a long race. That extra 100 miles does seem to add to the fatigue from a rigorous race such as the Coca-Cola 600. As for which of the forty three drivers will end up in Victory Lane… that’s a good question and not one I’m ready to answer at this very moment even though I do have a few favorite choices. I think it’s pretty obvious that those that have shown strength so far this year will show that strength once again Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It could be that we all get to witness history being made as a driver might win the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, but then again… well … probably not…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 24, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Sprint All Star Race At Charlotte

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Tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is all about the All Stars. No… wait a minute, that’s not quite true… It’s all about the money. It’s not about the points (because there are none), it’s not about who runs second or worse (because in the end it won’t matter) and it’s not about catching a break.

Oh, I know that doesn’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with the All Star race and everyone knows it can get pretty aggressive but, it does make for an interesting night of racing and can get a little rough at times. I guess that is what we as fans should expect when the only thing on the line is winning over a million bucks and how you do it is limited only by how – uh, how shall I put this? – “nice” you may be when it comes to moving someone out of the way that might keep you from it.

I guess the next question would be whether or not it’s a race that’s all about having fun or not? There are those that say that it is all about fun and then there are others that say is definitely all about the money! I don’t know which side of the fence I come down on because it does look like they have a lot of fun but racing for $1 million… Well, that does seem like there might be a bit more involved than just fun.

From this fan’s view (along with many others) the Sprint All-Star race is unique to itself and highly unpredictable as to how it might progress. Just because you’re an All-Star doesn’t mean you’re going to win the All-Star race and usually, the winner is a surprise even though any of them can win on this night. It is highly likely that tonight’s winner could be someone that hasn’t won this year, like Jimmy Johnson. Two things could possibly be in his favor for winning and the first would be how well he performs at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The second would be he’s going for his third in a row and that isn’t likely although possible.

Personally, I’m not sure that the winner will be that obvious until at least halfway through the competition tonight. It could be Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards or any number of the others. I’m not even sure that it will be Hendrick horsepower that leads the way even though they have been showing strength throughout this 2014 season. There are just too many variables and one of them is the aggressiveness of the drivers. Some would say that aggression, or aggressive driving, will rule the night and that could very possibly be true. It could also spell trouble for any of the possible winners if they don’t keep their heads on straight.

Both Clint Bowyer and AJ Allmendinger had a little extra practice last night as they finished one -two in the All-Star Showdown. Is it possible that Clint Boyer’s #15 team could begin this weekend to turn things around? In listening to Clint talk about his season so far, it’s been very disappointing for him and his team. It’s not that they haven’t had good cars but it is because they just haven’t been able to finish the way that they qualified or run so far this year. It is this fan’s opinion that tonight could be different for him but I’m not willing to say he’s going to win tonight.
AJ Allmendinger and his #47 team would like nothing less than to finish out front at the end of tonight’s race. It wouldn’t be just about the money for him although it would be somewhat about the money. What it could mean if they do win is that they have a possibility of winning the 600 next weekend and that would be very good for the #47 team. Judging from seasons past I’m sure the driver, crew and owners of the #47 team could use that boost in their confidence level.

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t talked about the Fords very much so far and there’s a reason for that. Although I could be quite surprised by tonight’s outcome and they might actually finish up front, I’m of the opinion they’re just not quite there yet. Does that mean there is no hope for the Fords at all? Not at all… What it means is most of the Fords just haven’t been as impressive as the Hendrick Chevys whether actual or associated teams, and Hendrick horsepower has ruled lately. Of course now that I’ve said that, this could be the night that any of the Fords or the Toyotas could outshine the Chevys whether it be Hendrick or Earnhardt-Childress horsepower. From this fan’s view, when it comes right down to it this could be another one of the most exciting races we’ve seen this year in Sprint cup much like last week was at Kansas.

Since the qualifying won’t take place until just before the race tonight it’s hard to tell what the starting order might be. I do think track position will play a big part in how tonight’s race may go but you have to remember that they’re only running in 20 lap segments until the last 10 laps. I expect this race to be flat out and aggressive, especially near the end. Whether it be a Ford, a Toyota or a Chevy that ends up in Victory Lane, it won’t matter much who finishes second because tonight is definitely, “All about the money… !!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 17, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Back In Kansas

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Yeah, I know this will sound a bit cliché, but contrary to what Dorothy said to Toto, NASCAR is back in Kansas once again but this won’t include a trip to the Land of Oz. However, there may be some gremlins that show up when it comes down to actual race time and it may be fortunate this is going to be a night race.

Yes, it is possible there may or may not be trouble ahead once again with tires even though nothing has happened yet and the drivers seem to be relatively happy with them. With the way Goodyear has struggled to get a grip on the increased down force of the new car for this year, it appears tire trouble could be something that could be a question all the way into summer (and maybe beyond.) Then again, this could be the weekend where it all begins to turn around for more than just the tire company.

Even though he took a big hit in points last weekend, Jeff Gordon still sits at the top of the points even though by the slimmest of margins. His finishing near the rear of the field at Talladega wasn’t his fault (well, that is other than deciding to run at the back of the pack for a while) but it did cost him the small cushion he had built up to that point. Up to that point his worst finishing position was thirteenth. As we move closer to summer, it is likely he will need to win a race or two to make the Chase unless he can hold onto that first points position until the fall.

From this fan’s view, Kevin Harvick goes into this race tonight with a lot of confidence. His taking the pole in qualifying shows that he should be a contender for the victory tonight and judging from his performance so far (and his history at this Kansas track) this fan thinks he just might walk away with this one.

Of course now that I’ve said that, I’m sure there are more than a few drivers that expect to press him on that. Taking a quick look at qualifying shows the Fords making a strong showing and they might have something to say about just who ends up in Victory Lane. Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle would top the list, at least from this fan’s view. All of them are fast and once again Logano and Keselowski are starting in the top four. That could put them in a very good spot, at least for starters, when it comes down to possible winners of the 5 Hour Energy 400.

Surprisingly, the Toyotas haven’t looked that strong this weekend but that could be very deceptive when it comes down to the end of the race. Clint Bowyer did show a bit of speed for Michael Waltrip Racing and Brian Vickers did too. It is true they didn’t show that well in qualifying but when it comes down to the race, this fan thinks several of the Toyotas will be mixing it up near the front.

Even though they haven’t been making a lot of noise so far this weekend, the Joe Gibbs teams have a tendency to show up competitive when it comes down to the final laps of a race. I’m sure they will all race better than their 24th or worst qualifying positions but whether or not they will press the Chevys and Fords for the top spots remains to be seen.
This fan finds it interesting that none of the actual Hendrick Motorsports teams qualified all that well, but once again this weekend, Hendrick horse power made a very strong showing. The Stewart/Haas teams in particular all qualified in the top ten and some are saying this is the weekend Tony Stewart begins to turn around his 2014 season.

I’m not willing to go that far out on the limb just yet but, I don’t expect him to continue on in the same rut he’s been in so far. After all, he did have a major setback last year with his sprint car accident and I think he is still recovering from that. I am sure there are many that will disagree with me on that but it takes time to fully recover from something like what he experienced. I also think he discovered something very important after his experience with that severe accident and that is that he is not indestructible. Sometimes, (and I stress that word, “sometimes”) that mental adjustment takes a little time to adapt to. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here… Tony Stewart is still Tony Stewart and I expect he will be making noise in Victory Lane sooner than later.

When it comes right down to it, this fan thinks this is going to be one of the better races of the season so far and it almost certainly will have a more exciting finish than the race at Talladega did last week. I can’t think of a worse way for a restrictor plate race on a Super Speedway to finish than under yellow. It was a complete let down and an uneventful finish since things were just about to get interesting when it was over. For Denny Hamlin, it turned out well but this fan sure hopes he isn’t counting on the same thing happening again tonight…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 10, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

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Well… It’s that time again. It’s time for the Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama. There’s nothing like spending a Sunday afternoon watching stock cars race on what is known as the world’s fastest race track, (well at least as far as stock cars are concerned.)

I’ve said it many times before and if you’re familiar with previous year’s articles, I love restrictor plate racing. I do have to admit that over the last few years it hasn’t seemed to be as exciting as it once was and there are several reasons for that, at least from this fan’s view. Before I say another word, I do want to say this… I don’t miss the “two car tandem” racing at all.

One of the reasons and probably the most evident to us all, is that somewhere along the way the drivers fall in the line and just start clicking off laps until they get closer to the end of the race. I don’t really have a problem with that but, it is, or at least can be, somewhat boring during those times. It seems a little funny to this fan that even though that might be some of the time during the race that has the least amount of action, it also seems to be when they run the fewest commercials during the broadcast. Sure, I know I could be wrong about that and it may just seem that way to me but it even makes that part of the race seem a bit longer.

Another reason that it doesn’t seem to be as exciting as it once was, at least to this fan, is that they really haven’t decided how they want to strategize for being around at the end of the race. I know that there are those that will argue with me and that’s okay but I have to say that the strategies, although varied, are very diverse and things don’t really get interesting until about the last 50 miles or so. Now I know that there are those that will say no you’re wrong, Rusty; it’s the last hundred miles that are the most interesting and then there are those that only want to watch the last 10 laps. Why I’ve even had some friends that told me they set the DVR so that they can go back and watch something that might have happened that they might’ve missed but they really don’t start watching the race until about the last 15 to 20 laps or so.

From this fan’s view I think one of the biggest reasons that people like restrictor plate racing is the closeness of the racing and of course the possibility of having the “Big One” at some time during the 499 miles. As a kid at the races at our local tracks in Southern Illinois that seemed to be the thing we liked the most. My friends and I really didn’t talk too much about the races that didn’t have wrecks in them. In fact, we went to see the wrecks and were totally disappointed when they didn’t happen.

After I became a car owner and driver a little later in life, it wasn’t about the wrecks anymore; it was more about the racing. Some of my fondest memories are still when we were ran lap after lap nose to tail and door handle to door handle in the group because no one could pass anyone. The line up for those races just happened to be in such a way that we were all fairly well matched and no one could get an advantage.

That may be why that I miss what some would call the “old days” in restrictor plate racing. That was when they ran two and three wide and many rows deep for much of the race. For some, that’s exactly why they didn’t like restrictor plate racing because it seemed no one could break away from the rest. For others they were on the edge of their seats because they were running two and three wide nose to tail and expecting the big win to happen at any moment. I have to admit, as a fan, that I also enjoyed that type of racing and as long as nobody got hurt I kind of look forward to the big one happening as long as it didn’t take out the guy that I was rooting for.

This weekend was the first time that the field qualified under the new qualifying format and the strategies were definitely different. When it came down to the last 5 minute qualifying session nobody wanted to be the first one out simply because there was no way that the first car was going to run faster than all the rest simply because of the draft. Personally, and I may be the only candidate feels this way, it does give an advantage to some and presents a disadvantage to others and I found the entire last session be a bit boring.

This is where I once again remind everyone that qualifying really doesn’t matter when it comes to restrictor plate racing. In fact, if they lined up according to points instead of qualifying at Talladega it wouldn’t matter when it comes down to race day. Even though it doesn’t matter that much where any of them qualified, from this fan’s view any one of them could end up in Victory Lane and that includes any one of the rookies.

Even though I know it sounds like I’m not really looking forward to this race, that conception is completely wrong. I am looking forward to it and can’t wait until the green flag drops. I expect we will see any number of strategies play out but I do think that this weekend might be a weekend where the tires won’t be a problem at least as much as they have been recently. I’m not even sure track position is going to play that big a part in the Aaron’s 499 on this Sunday afternoon. I believe when it comes right down to it, it’s all going to depend on when that last yellow flag falls and whether or not the big when has happened before the final laps are run…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 3, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Saturday Night Short Trackin’ At Richmond

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I don’t know about you but, I don’t recall in recent history having this much rain at the beginning of a NASCAR Sprint Cup season. I could be wrong but it just doesn’t seem like this is a normal start to a season. We’ve had a several NASCAR weekends affected by rain and it appears this weekend is no different.

Once again, the field will line up according to the first practice session on Friday afternoon because qualifying was rained out. That means there’s going to be some very good cars starting in the middle or back of the field and others that will probably be starting much better than they ever expected to, especially at Richmond. And how about that poll winner, Kyle Larson? Is it possible he may win his first Sprint Cup race this weekend? Well… that remains to be seen but it is a possibility that has to be considered. (Now that’s a scenario that would really make Darrell Waltrip happy…)

The thing I find interesting about tonight’s race at Richmond is that it’s going to be a little different, at least at the beginning, simply because of the rain out of qualifying. Although it’s possible things will turn out much as they were going to should they have had qualifying, with the way the field is lining up I’m really wondering whether or not this is going to be a normal Richmond race or not. Since it is a short track and they’re racing under the lights, it’s one of those races that we won’t really know what’s going to happen until they actually get started. Personally, I don’t think Kyle Larson is going to win tonight but I do have to consider the possibility that starting out front and the fact that this is a short track that’s at times hard to pass on, he very well could.

Of course I think there are some veteran drivers that are going to press that issue all night long. Kevin Harvick, Jimmy Johnson, Clint Boyer, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, just to name a few, won’t be content to sit back and watch the rookie win. I expect all the ones I just mentioned to be pressing him from the drop of the green flag. I’m not saying he doesn’t have the ability to win, I’m just saying that the veterans are not going to make it easy for him.

Now that I’ve named a few drivers that I think have a very good chance of winning tonight, it’s awfully hard to talk about Richmond and not mention the name of Jeff Gordon. He is one that is not only capable of winning but, in this fan’s opinion, is one that is very much overdue to win a race with the way he’s been running in this 2014 season. Now don’t go jumping to any conclusions, I’m not saying he’s going to win… I’m just saying he has to be considered when it comes right down to choosing people that could win tonight at Richmond.

Kyle Busch is another one that can’t be left out of the mix. In fact, it’s awfully hard to not mention his brother Kurt in the same sentence with him. Either one of them could win tonight and of course Kyle’s teammate, Matt Kenseth might have something to say about that himself. I’m really not expecting Matt to win but I do expect he’ll make a good showing tonight. (Well… that is if something unexpected doesn’t happen and since this is short track racing at its best, that is a high possibility.)

In all honesty, this fan has no idea who’s going to win tonight but there are more than a few names that do stand out. I’ve already mentioned several but there’s a few that I haven’t mentioned yet. This could be the night that Marcos Ambrose becomes known more than just a road course winner and take his first oval track victory in Sprint Cup. From this fan’s view nothing would be more fitting than for a Petty team to win especially considering what the King has been through the last several weeks and if the truth be known, this fan would not be disappointed in all the see Ambrose win.

I think tonight will have a very interesting start to the race. I completely believe that it’s going to take a while for things to ring themselves out simply because of the rain out of qualifying. There’s going to be some good cars starting up front and there’s going to be some good cars starting in the back and barring the unforeseen, it’s going to take the better cars little time to work their way towards the front. As I mentioned before, Richmond is not an easy track to pass on and I can make the racing all the more interesting simply because of the way they’re lined up and because of that pesky rain thing that eliminated qualifying.

From this fan’s view it’s anybody’s guess who is going to end up in Victory Lane and there is no doubt in my mind that it could be someone totally unexpected. Will it be Kyle Larson? Will it be one of the other rookies? Will it be Danica Patrick? Well… I reckon we’ll see.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 26, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Is The Lady In Black Too Tough To Tame?

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Over the years the track at Darlington South Carolina has acquired lasting nicknames. One of those is “The Lady in Black” and another is “The Track That’s Too Tough to Tame.” No matter which one you choose, either one fits the place and a lot of cars will receive their “Darlington stripe” before the day is done (or maybe I should say before the night is done.)

“The Lady in Black” is an interesting race track and it is an exceptional challenge all through the 500 miles for the drivers and crews. There’s not a whole lot new to say that hasn’t been said this week as the teams prepare for the Bojangles Southern 500 and I don’t intend to drag this article out. I do have to make a few comments though…

Even though this is a track that is considered to be too tough to tame, every year someone does tame it and takes home the trophy and ends up in Victory Lane. One thing that hasn’t changed that much and never seems to is that tires are definitely a key to winning. With the challenges that Goodyear has had this year with their tires because of the extra down force from this year’s rules, I can’t help but wonder if tonight might not be another race where the outcome could be decided by those that don’t have tire problems. I really don’t expect any tire problems tonight at the Darlington Raceway but considering what’s been going on over the last several races, there is the remote possibility that there could be problems once again.

Another thing that is always key to winning a Darlington is staying out of the wall and as I mentioned earlier many cars tonight will receive their Darlington stripe. It just depends on how hard they actually hit the wall whether or not it’s going to help or hinder their progress throughout the race. In some ways a brush with the wall in the past has caused cars to handle better. At other times a hard brush with the wall has resulted in someone who could’ve won, finishing the night in the garage area. As at any other time is possible either one of those could happen tonight.

It has been interesting to watch the progress of all the Fords as they have become more competitive, at least judging from the practice and qualifying sessions and it’s possible that someone as unlikely as Marcos Ambrose could win tonight. I don’t mean that as a cut Ambrose because I actually like him and would not mind seeing him win at all. It would be great for him and for the Petty camp in general. In fact I have to admit that the Fords have looked very competitive at times over the last couple of weeks. (Oh, that’s right, Joey Logano did win last week in Ford, didn’t he?)

All of the Chevys are showing up on a regular basis very competitive right off the trucks. Some of them look more competitive than others and a few of those would be Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson and Kurt Busch. Now they’re not the only ones but they are the ones that stand out in this fan’s mind.

Quite unexpectedly to this fan has been the relative lack luster runs of the Toyotas. That’s not to say they haven’t been competitive but when it came down to the end of several of the races so far, they just haven’t been there. I expect that could very likely change tonight but from this fan’s view, I reckon I’ll have to say that’s a wait-and-see kind of thing.

From this fan’s view I honestly think it’s going to be a Chevy that ends up in Victory Lane tonight but I am having a tough time choosing between several drivers. The obvious would be pole winner Kevin Harvick and a close second choice would be Jeff Gordon. That leaves a lot of room for just about anyone that drives a Chevy in particular a name we haven’t heard mentioned that much this year, Kasey Kahne. In reality, there are a lot of names that could be mentioned here but I just won’t do it.

Tires and no mistakes in the pits just might be keys to victory for tonight’s race. Of course, it seems that we can say that every week but tonight tires will definitely be first choice for every driver and even though they might be able to gain spots by taking two, four is going to be the better choice, at least from this fan’s view…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 12, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Tire Troubles May Once Again Surface At Texas…

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Say what you will but, the 2014 NASCAR season has had a very interesting start. There’s been rain, six different winners over six races, some technical glitches that possibly affected the outcome of a couple of races and tire issues especially over the last couple of weeks. There’s nothing new about rain, it’s always unpredictable. Having six different winners over six races just shows how competitive the teams have become. Now tire issues… well… That’s a whole different ballgame.

Yeah, it’s been an interesting start and many attribute the competition and the tire issues to the rule changes that were made for this car this season. From this fan’s view, they’re probably right. The speeds are higher at every track so far this year and that means the stress on the particular component that hooks up all of the horsepower to the track is greatly increased. As we all know, Goodyear does a very good job of trying to keep up with all of the stresses put on their tires but this year is proving to be a challenge for them.

It’s true that the team engineers and crew chiefs try to take advantage of any edge they can find to become more competitive and because they press that envelope, they may not always take the conservative route Goodyear suggests. In addressing the tire issues so far this year, both NASCAR and Goodyear have “suggested” that it is the competitiveness of the teams and their willingness to press the envelope as the largest contributing factor for the tire issues. As a fan (and former racer) I can’t really disagree with them. When it comes right down to it, no one really knows where the line can be drawn until they cross it and failures occur. Whether it be tire pressures and different setups in the geometry or looking for that little bit extra horsepower in the tuning of an engine, lines have to be crossed to find out if they can be moved.

I don’t think anyone really faults them for looking for that little bit of extra performance because that’s what racing is all about… Competition. If there’s one thing that’s proven this year it’s that there is a limit to what the present tire designs can take and when that limit is exceeded, failures can and do happen.

Texas Motor Speedway is a big track and it’s also a fast-track. No matter what happened in the practice and qualifying sessions, whether or not the lines have or will be crossed won’t be known until they hit the track Sunday afternoon. I’m not saying that there will be problems with the tires but it is a very good possibility.

If anything can be taken from the practice sessions, at least in this fan’s opinion, it would be that the Chevys and the Fords look awfully tough for this weekend. I’m sure that along with the SHR teams, the Hendrick teams will also make a good showing. I guess it remains to be seen if Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle will make a race of it along with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano from the Ford camps. Even the Petty teams are beginning to show some muscle although I don’t think they’ve quite arrived yet.

Jeff Gordon didn’t qualify all that well but I do expect him to be running at or near the front when today’s race is over. The same goes for Jimmy Johnson; either of them could walk away with a victory today and both of them are little bit overdue, at least in this fan’s opinion. Both of them have been consistently showing up with fast cars every weekend. From this fan’s view is just a matter of time before both of them make their appearance in Victory Lane in I do think it could be sooner than later.

It’s just an observation but I do think that the Toyotas are struggling at least a little bit so far this year. Sure, I know that Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch along with Clint Bowyer have also been very competitive so far this season but so far it does appear that they’re still searching for consistency.

In looking at the race today at Texas, three things will be important when it comes to being in the hunt for the win. As always this could become a fuel mileage race so fuel strategy will probably be important when it comes down to the final laps. Track position is going to be very important and there won’t be any room for mistakes in the pits. When it comes down to tire management… well… that’s going to depend on whether or not the ugly tire failure monster raises his head…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 5, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR Cup Teams Take On Martinsville

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Well, it appears that NASCAR just can’t catch a break this year. Martinsville is just another weekend of several so far this season with rain in the forecast. Even though rain is something all racers have to deal with at some time or other and it is to be expected, rain is not and has never been a friend of stock car racing. In fact, in looking at the weather forecast for the weekend it appears that there could be showers on Sunday afternoon also although the percentage for the chance of rain is very low. But no matter how you look at it, rain and racing are generally not good for fan turnout especially if the weather is a bit chilly along with the rain.

If they do get to race on Sunday afternoon, (or even if they have to move to Monday), Martinsville will be short tracking at its best. It is one of the best anywhere and reminds all of us of the type racing most of us grew up around. To be honest, this fan thinks that short track racing is probably some of the most exciting NASCAR racing that we see. I know I will get some arguments about that, in particular from those of you that like restrictor plate racing, and that’s okay because I like them both, but I am just a bit more partial to short tracks.

I really don’t think, or maybe I should say I don’t really expect to see that many differences in the ones that are running up front this weekend from any other time NASCAR Cup teams visit Martinsville. Kyle Busch definitely runs well at Martinsville along with Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Of course I have to add to that mix Matt Kenseth, Clint Boyer and Brad Keselowski and a number of others. I do have to admit I’m anxious to see how the racing goes on this popular short track this year if for no other reason than the rule changes and the higher speeds. I’m really not expecting a lot of tire problems even though it is a possibility again this weekend.

It seems that Goodyear (at least from this fan’s view) thinks that it’s the crew Chiefs and teams that are trying to gain more speed out of the cars and therefore they don’t run enough air pressure. According to Goodyear, that’s what caused, or at least contributed to all the tire problems last weekend. I’m not so sure I agree with that but it is likely that they are right simply because there were some teams that didn’t have any tire problems and there were others that had a lot of tire problems. One would think however that once the teams started having the problems, they would make changes to their setups (especially something as simple as tire pressures?) during the race and not have the problems that they continued to have right up to the very end at Sonoma last weekend.

I’m generally not one that thinks that Goodyear makes excuses, but it is possible that they actually just didn’t have enough information to work with whenever they chose the tire they wanted for Sonoma last weekend. No matter what the reason, they did have tire problems last weekend and it did affect the outcome of the race. Even though there hasn’t been much said about the tire issues last weekend, the person that was leading at the time near the end was a bit upset for several reasons and only part of it was related to the tire issues. Of course you know that would be Jeff Gordon and he is the person I picked to win last weekend in my abridged version of this NASCAR Fans View and he was leading when the last caution came out with two laps to go.

Well, when all is said and done, there are several things you can take to the bank this weekend for the racing at Martinsville. One is, don’t expect people to be running close to the wall in the turns in particular. If they are doing that it’s probably because they got bumped or just because they just flat missed it going into the turn. Getting out of the groove and up into the marbles is not a good thing at Martinsville which is something that everyone knows. The second thing that you can take to the bank (and this could quite likely affect the outcome of the race in some way or another) is what happens when the pit stops come around and where the drivers pit stalls are. Martinsville doesn’t have a lot of room for mistakes in the way the pit road is laid out. It should prove to be very exciting and can have a great effect on the race outcome Sunday afternoon (or Monday should that be the case.)

The third is probably the most obvious and one of the reasons short track racing is as popular as it is. Yeah, that’s right… you got it. It has to do with tempers flaring and some emotional displays that just might seem a little unusual compared to most weekends. Yes, it’s almost a given there will be some that leave Martinsville more than a little upset with some of their fellow drivers and… well… you know how that goes…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 29, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR Cup Teams Take On Fontana

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Okay… hold on to your hats… this may be the shortest NASCAR Fan’s View ever. Because of a very busy schedule this week, I just haven’t had time to do the usual full NASCAR fan’s view I’ve been doing every racing week for several years now. My apologies but I just had to say something and here it is…

Judging from the possibility of tire problems plaguing some, many or all of the Cup teams this afternoon at Fontana, it is this fan’s opinion that Jeff Gordon is going to win this Auto Club 400.

Do I think he will win simply because there might be tire issues?? No, not at all… It has been this fan’s opinion he was going to win since they unloaded the cars from the trucks and hit the track for the practice and qualifying sessions.

If he doesn’t win, it won’t be the end of my world and I really won’t lose any sleep over it, but, if he does… well… let’s just say, I told you so…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 23, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

The Next Test For the New Rules Is Bristol

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Just in case you didn’t notice or hear the latest, there have been some changes made in the past week. In last week’s article, you might recall I said I thought NASCAR might want to think about making changes to the qualifying process. I wasn’t alone in thinking that and many had expressed how much of a safety issue it was. Well, just in case you haven’t heard or didn’t watch NASCAR Cup qualifying, they did make changes to the process and there will no longer be cars going very slowly, cooling down their engines so they can make more attempts at qualifying better while others are going at full speed. Now NASCAR will allow the use of cool-down boxes on pit road but they still can’t lift the hoods of the cars to do so. That means they can cool the engines down much more efficiently and have a better chance at improving their qualifying times. It also means the crews had to come up with an innovative way to perform this procedure without lifting the hood of the cars. From this fan’s view it appears they were up to the task and did find ways to do so.

When the NASCAR Cup Teams take on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, it remains to be seen just what kind of effect the new rules will have on the racing. This is the first time the new package has been in effect for a track of this size. We’ve already seen higher speeds in the practice and qualifying sessions and a few teams have already had to pull out their backup cars. Some are attributing the problems with handling to the higher speeds along with the colder temperatures and different tires Goodyear brought. Others just think it is because there is no rubber on the upper part of the track and the once popular upper groove is very touchy because of that lack of rubber.

From this fan’s view, it did appear that missing the black (laid down tire rubber) in the upper groove by just the two outside tires did make for some very interesting rides up to, or into the wall. We can only hope that by Sunday afternoon this particular problem will be a thing of the past and that the drivers will only be dealing with the higher speeds as a problem. (Well that is if it doesn’t rain out the race and move it to Monday and the chances are high that could happen.)

It does appear the Penske teams continue to have a bit more advantage at the tracks visited so far and this fan wonders if their top five finishes will continue. They do continue to qualify consistently in the top five and as I mentioned last week, it does appear they have the new qualifying procedure figured out.

Of course, from this fan’s view, the other teams are going to figure it out too and the new rule changes will make a difference, also. Denny Hamlin being on the pole, and the strategy they used to run their fastest time in the qualifying session didn’t go unnoticed by other drivers and crew chiefs as well. From this fan’s view, qualifying will continue to take on a new look (depending on track size) and strategies used will definitely be taking into account the number of laps on the tires.

Since many struggled with the upper groove on the Bristol track this weekend, the favorite groove now appears to be on the bottom and it is this fan’s opinion the bottom will be where most run and the line they will want to guard the most. That could make it interesting when someone faster comes up on the bumper of a driver just a tick slower trying to guard the lower line. I expect there will be a few tempers exhibited and some close encounters with the wall unless there is a little give and take between them. I also expect a few will make it a point to offer some not-so-friendly payback depending on their mood at the time.

So let’s see, the speeds are up, the tires are good, and the racing groove could tend to be a bit finicky depending how much rubber gets laid down and where it is. Sounds to me like it just might be the usual stuff we’ve all become accustomed to at short track racing and particularly at Bristol, what do you think…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 16, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Cup Teams Look For Answers At Vegas

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Well, the Cup teams hit the track in Vegas this weekend and three things are still at the forefront of the 2014 NASCAR Cup season.

1. Cup teams are looking for answers to the new rules and the changes to the cars for this year.
2. Some of the drivers and teams are struggling with the changes to the car.
3. The Penske teams appear to have qualifying figured out.

Do you remember when NASCAR was at Daytona and I said that there must be something wrong if the drivers are as happy as they are? Well, I may be overstepping my bounds just a bit but it looks like I may have been right. It appears that more than a few of the drivers (and their teams) are not all that happy anymore. Oh, they’re not that outspoken about it but, it’s obvious that the changes to the rules for qualifying and differing areas of cars are causing a bit of difficulty as they all try to adapt.

Now this is purely speculation on the part of this fan, but it does appear that some of the drivers and teams are struggling with the changes and a few even look lost. When you listen to them talk they try not to blame any one thing but it seems they all use the same word (or at least one that’s very similar.) That word (at least from this fan’s view) is, “adapting.” It’s true, and very obvious, that some are really having trouble adapting to the new rules package. So far, that struggle hasn’t affected the racing that much but it has made the interviews during practice and qualifying sessions a little more interesting than they used to be.

As a fan, there are things that I do like about the new qualifying procedure and there are things that I don’t much care for it all. I don’t think I’m alone in that and it does appear that there are going to have to be some changes made by NASCAR to help the drivers and teams overcome some of the challenges they appear to be experiencing during those sessions. I’m not saying I have any answers at this point but I have seen some situations that are bothersome and could have major impact in the future.

One thing in particular appears to be a safety concern (at least from my view) and it has to do with cars that are slowing down or trying to cool down after making a run. I know that all of us are adapting to this new procedure and they can be stressful and exciting but perhaps a few changes could be made to make it safer.

Of course I know one of the reasons that they did it was to make qualifying more exciting and possibly generate more interest rather than having people sit and watch one car go around the track at a time. I think they’ve accomplished at least part of their goal because it is a little more interesting and possibly a bit more exciting. I’m willing to give it more time as they all adapt to this procedure but I hope we don’t have to wait for a few cars to get torn up or someone to get hurt before they figure out where the possible dangers are in the procedure.

Even while much of the field is looking for more handling and speed at this time, it appears that Penske teams are quite happy with the qualifying sessions and the new procedure. Of course that could be because for the last two weeks the two Penske teams have qualified on the front row. I do find it interesting that they are performing very well in qualifying and running near the front on race days but, I’m not sure whether or not the Penske teams are able to end up in Victory Lane even though they do qualify well. That’s another one of those “wait and see” situations and we won’t know the answer until one of them actually wins a race from the front row.

All of that aside it does appear that the Fords either run well or poorly and hardly ever in between. It doesn’t matter whether you look at the Penske teams, the Roush teams or even the Petty teams; they all seem to be at different levels in performance, whether it be handling or horsepower. Of the three I just mentioned, it appears that the Petty teams are struggling the most. Of course that could change at any time.

From this fan’s view (and this has very little to do with anything) is a statement that many of the drivers use but I’ve grown a little tired of. That statement is, “It’s Vegas, baby!” I guess one of the reasons that I’ve grown tired of it that they all say it and it’s supposed to explain why Vegas is so much different than anywhere else. From my view, nothing could be further from the truth.

I mean, I understand all the hype and the keywords but there are a lot of reasons why this race stands out. I’m sure there will be those that disagree with me but I might as well state the obvious. It’s the first race of the year where they face the type race track that they see more of in a season than any other. If they continue struggling with their setups and the rule changes keep on affecting them in a negative way, then it could be a very long year for many of them. Of course those that already have some of it figured out and appear to be doing well so far, well… I just don’t expect they’ll be complaining much…uh, at least until someone figures out what works better than them…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 09, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions