Congrats to Ryan Newman

Just a quick note to congratulate Ryan Newman for his victory at the Brickyard 400 and Indy. This fan kind of figured it would be a horsepower showing, and it was, especially Hendrick horsepower. Just take a look at the top 10… It sure looks like Hendrick horsepower ruled the day.

(Well, at least I got that part right…)

(C) July 28, 2013 – All rights reserved
Rusty Norman & JustAFansView.com
All comments are strictly the opinion of the writer

Jason Leffler – (no words express…)

Jason Leffler, (sigh)… Once again, the obvious danger of racing becomes very visible in the loss of Jason Leffler. Our thoughts, hopes and prayers go out to the family and friends of Jason Leffler at their loss. He was a husband, father and racer. There really aren’t words that fully express how we feel about the loss of one of the racing family… He will be missed…

Homestead and 2011 Season After Thoughts from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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This is old news I know, but Tony Stewart is the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and he did the old fashioned way… he and his team worked for it. When the Chase started, many thought they were probably the least likely to win and they may have been right. That didn’t detour the now three time champion or his team and all they needed were a few things to go their way and they would build on the momentum and race their way to ownership of the most treasured title in NASCAR.

I don’t think anyone will deny that the #14 Team made gutsy calls, pressed the competitive envelope and NASCAR fans everywhere were treated to a hard charging driver that refused to let circumstances get him down and, even when things weren’t going well during a race or a weekend, he lifted himself and his team above the problems and ended up winning five of the ten Chase races, something no one really expected to happen. Every race saw Tony Stewart pressing to win and being aggressive from the start of every race, especially the last five in the Chase.

At no time in the Chase was he willing to accept just running a careful points race and several times during the last few races, he took what many called unnecessary chances. In the end, it all came down to him passing one more car, Jeff Burton, to gain one more point on the last turn of the last lap of the race at Phoenix and that kept him within 3 points of Carl Edwards going into the last weekend at Homestead. Had it not been for his determination to get every point out of every race in the Chase, he would have probably finished second in the Championship. (Well… we all know how that turned out, don’t we?)

Carl Edwards had a great season and even though it turns out he tied Stewart for the Championship, he finished second because of his lack of trips to Victory Lane. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. Carl Edwards had a great year and is a great driver. One can only think he learned from this loss and will be an even more formidable competitor for the Championships in the future. Just a quick glance at his stats for this year shows he was the most consistent finisher with 26 top tens and that says something about the year he had. I just don’t see him laying down and being less competitive in the future. In fact, this fan expects to see him coming on strong again next season.

Probably the two most disappointed drivers, (at least from this fan’s view), would be the Bush brothers. Kyle had another disappointing Chase and I am sure he wonders why when they get to the Chase he seems to go backward for one reason or another. Of course, he can only blame himself for part of his twelfth place finish in this one. His actions at Texas definitely put him in a hole and his twenty-third place finish at Homestead didn’t help a bit. It wasn’t that he wasn’t trying, but it did appear to this fan he was just trying to get through this race and looking to a fresh start in the 2012 season. From my view, he is maturing and will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Kurt Bush’s blown transmission put a cap on a disappointing Chase for him. It seems to me, his rants and raves on the radio this year didn’t do a thing to stop unexpected part failures or improve his position in this Chase. He dropped three positions to eleventh, just sixteen points ahead of his brother in twelfth. I understand he is high strung and gets pumped when in race mode, but eventually there has to be more than complaints coming from the driver’s seat over the radio. It may be only my opinion but it would have to get old if I were a crew chief or crew member on his team. I’m not taking anything away from his talent as a driver because I know he is a very good one. I’m just saying working on developing a few people skills might help the entire team do better in the end.

Of all the Hendrick teams, Jeff Gordon may have had the most satisfying Homestead race of them all with his fifth place finish. He had a car that could run up front but they did lose the handle on it just slightly as they transitioned into the darkness. I would think he and his crew will take their top five performance into the new season and take another stab at winning Jeff’s fifth Championship.

Richard Childress Racing had three cars in the top ten but one of them, Clint Bowyer, will be moving to Michael Waltrip Racing and taking his hopes and momentum with him. I don’t see him looking back, though. I am sure he is looking forward to a fresh start in 2012 with MWR.

From this fan’s view, 2011 was a stellar year for NASCAR. The Cup series saw as good a racing as any year in the recent past. It seems every decision NASCAR made from the points system to the front end of the cars was the right move for the sport. I’m not saying there isn’t still some controversy about some of the decisions they made during the season, but overall, they proved why NASCAR is still at the top of the list in the racing world.

This past year was one of the best I can remember and the finale at Homestead couldn’t have been more dramatic. It went exactly as I hoped it would and the championship was in doubt until the checkered flag dropped, ending the season and seeing both Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards tied in points and the one with the most victories named the 2011 Cup Champion.

Unfortunately, from this fan’s view, NASCAR has a very difficult task ahead of them in 2012. Can next season top this one…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 22, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Chase Race Three at the Monster From A NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanLast week it was the Magic, this week it’s the Monster and some drivers have to have monstrous success in Chase Race three on Sunday afternoon. If the trend continues for some, they may have to just contend for the Championship next year and take what they get for this year. That’s not to say it is all over for most (other than maybe Denny Hamlin) but with every passing weekend they drop further back in the points, the harder it is for them to move back up. When one of them has a bad weekend, there is no guarantee those ahead of them will have a bad one to help them get back into contention. That’s what makes the Chase format, as it stands now, so interesting (on a week to week basis, that is.)

The Chasers are already somewhat separated when it comes right down to it and no one is eliminated yet, but there is a big difference between being less than fifteen points behind the top spot and being twenty three or more points behind. In case anyone doesn’t get what I’m getting at, let me make it as plain as I can. That means even Jeff Gordon has to be considered as an also ran if he has another week or two finishing outside the top ten. Yes, I know he moved up six places after last weeks race in Loudon, but, if he doesn’t continue to finish in the top ten, (better yet, the top five), then this could turn out to be just another year he was in contention but didn’t take home the big prize.

Okay, I admit it, maybe I am jumping the gun a little early in talking about drivers either being in or out of the Sprint Cup Championship hunt, but time is getting short and someone is going to step up to the plate and take it to the rest of them. It could be Tony Stewart (who has already won the first two races) or it could be Brad Keselowski who has already had an outstanding nine weeks and was considered by many to not even be able to make the Chase. Yet he sits in third spot in the points and hasn’t faultered at all. It is certainly obvious, he has the most momentum of all the drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, (unless we consider Tony Stewart because of his two latest wins.)

I don’t know about you, but from this fan’s view, this Chase is definitely shaping up quite a bit different than I expected. I have to admit, in my mind I thought the drivers that would have jumped on the first two races and been at the top of the points had different names than the ones that are. I really thought Kyle Bush, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson would have been the early leaders. I honestly expected Tony Stewart to still be struggling a bit and would have expected Brad Keselowski to have faded. As it is, they both have impressed me as being the ones to beat and Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are right there with them.

Today at the Monster Mile could be one of the races won by someone outside the twelve Chasers. I think everybody expects the Bush brothers and Carl Edwards to be atop the leader board when all is said and done, but there are others that did show some good speed in the practice sessions and look who is sitting on the pole. This fan didn’t expect to see the name Martin Truex Jr in that position but it definitely is. Take a look at some of the others in the top fifteen. Some of them are names not mentioned much, at least not for being possible winners or top ten finishers.

Paul Menard qualified third and could win this race. I’m not saying he will but I am saying by qualifying third he has some speed and that could be the thing that propels him to the victory. AJ Allmendinger, Bobby Labonte, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle all qualified in the top ten and although it is a long shot, any one of them could pull off a victory if things go well for them and not like usual.

The Monster is a very fast and tricky one mile track. Simply because some one qualified in the back of the field doesn’t mean they will stay back there all day any more than someone who qualified at or near the top will stay there either. From this fan’s view, this is going to be a race that won’t decided until the last thirty or so laps and it is going to depend on whether there is a late race caution or two. The closer they come to the end, the harder it will be to call the winner and if the last fifty or so laps are run under green, well, it’s going to be all about track position, consistently fast lap times and how that last pit stop goes.

Personally, this fan thinks this is going to be another week the points situation is shaken up again. I’m not so sure Danny Hamlin is going to make a big jump, even though he did qualify eleventh. The biggest change could come in the top four since they are the tightest in points at the moment, but that’s not to say there won’t be some surprises. Yeah, I think it is possible there could be an unexpected winner, but I’m not ruling out Mark Martin or Jeff Gordon either. Wait a minute, looking at where they qualified, they would probably be unexpected winners, too, wouldn’t they?…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 2, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Sprint Cup at Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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*********************************************************************************************Rusty NormanFirst, there was Atlanta. Now there is Richmond and there are basically only three spots left to claim to make the Chase. Oh, I know when you look at the standings it may look like there are four, but, there is one that is definitely in, it is just a matter of whether he stays in one of the wildcard spots or moves into the top ten and is able to take full advantage of his three wins on the season. Of course, I know you all know that “one” I’m talking about is, Brad Keselowski.

What happens tonight at RIR will determine who will be in the Chase for 2011 and I don’t remember there ever being such mystery and drama coming into the last race before we know which teams will actually be involved. Oh sure, we all know eight (actually nine) are locked in but there are a lot of possibilities depending on where Tony Stewart and Dale Jr finish in tonight’s competition. If the two of them finish twentieth or better only one spot remains to be filled. If disaster strikes either one or both of them, it opens up a whole new set of options and the whole thing won’t be determined until the checkered flag drops at the end of the race tonight.

Personally, I don’t think NASCAR ever dreamed this would be the case, even though I know it was what they hoped for when they made the changes to the points system this year.

Now, before I move on to tonight’s race completely, I have to mention a few things about the Atlanta race. I don’t have to tell you who won because Jeff Gordon winning his eighty-fifth career race has been talked about all week since the checkered flag dropped Tuesday afternoon. I don’t even have to mention who finished second because there has been no end to references to the number of wins and championships represented by the ones that finished first and second, also known as, “Four-time” and “Five time”, (but just in case you’ve been completely out of touch, that would be Jimmie Johnson.)

One thing I do find interesting is that another multi time Cup Champion finished third, but was hardly ever mentioned in the comparisons of number of wins and championships and that would be Tony Stewart. Considering how many spots he moved forward at the end of the race, I would have thought he would have at least be included in the conversations as an honorable mention for his two championships and thirty-nine wins. (Hm-m-m, maybe it was just because he wasn’t mixing it up at the end with the other two…) One thing is certain in looking back to Atlanta last week though. Things did change as far as the Chase was concerned.

Tonight at Richmond will be a night of hard racing, bumping and banging and quite possibly hot tempers. One can only hope that someone with no chance of making the Chase doesn’t ruin someone else’s chance of making it by either doing something really stupid or by reacting to a situation ruled by temperament. However, this is a very fast short rack and emotions will play a great role simply because of all the adrenaline the drivers will be pumping through their systems.

There is a lot riding on tonight for some drivers and teams and for others, well… let’s just say some have nothing to lose. That makes for an interesting mix and could mean we could see an unexpected winner tonight. Some are obvious choices for possible winners and others, well… let’s just say… from this fan’s view, they don’t have snowball’s chance in the Arizona desert of winning. Of those unexpected ones, I would have to say AJ Allmendinger has an outside chance along with his teammate Marcos Ambrose. Both have been performing better but their consistency just isn’t there yet. (Honestly, from my view, if either one of them wins I would be quite surprised.)

Others I consider as having outside chances of winning would be names like David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr, Regan Smith, David Reutimann and even Casey Mears. David Ragan needs to win if he has any chance at all of making the Chase, but in my opinion, both possibilities are very long shots for him for tonight’s race. David Reutimann is more likely to win if for no other reason than he is a great short track racer. I have to say in complete honesty though, the reason I say any of these have outside chances of winning is because I really don’t expect it and I really don’t think it is going to happen.

When it comes right down to it, I think the winner tonight will come from the top fifteen in points and more likely the top ten. There are some obvious choices amongst them also, but there are some that just might have a better chance than the others. One thing I won’t do is make my choice based on the qualifying times for tonight’s race. Although qualifying was interesting, the most important thing to consider is consistent lap times (as long as they’re faster lap times than the rest) and what happens during pit stops.

There are those that think Denny Hamlin or Kyle Bush will win tonight. I see their point considering how they’ve done over the last several trips to RIR, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen for them tonight. Personally, I ‘m looking for a Ford or Chevy to be in Victory Lane tonight.

Jimmie Johnson looked particularly strong in practice and qualifying and could take the trophy tonight. Even though he didn’t qualify all that well, Jeff Gordon once again had the fastest car in the practice sessions and was also best over multiple laps. Carl Edwards and the #99 team seemed to hit on something late in the second practice session and I do think he has a great shot tonight, too.

At Richmond, a lot can wrong in a hurry so it makes it hard to confidently pick a possible winner for tonight’s race, but considering his performance lately, I’m still still picking Jeff Gordon to win his eighty-sixth. If he doesn’t, neither he nor I will be that disappointed but it sure would make for interesting conversation in the week ahead, wouldn’t it. Does anyone think it will be a repeat of the performance at the end of the Atlanta race? Well… I reckon we’ll see…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 10, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Sprint Cup at Bristol After Thoughts from a NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanIt’s two to go to make the show and there are more than ten drivers that still have a chance to make the Chase, depending of course on how well they perform this coming weekend at Atlanta and how poorly some of the others perform. Yes, it is true, some of them are extreme long shots and it would almost require divine intervention, yet the possibilities are there. But that’s getting just a bit ahead of what went on in Bristol last Saturday night under the lights.

There is no way you can’t know that Brad Keselowski has had a stellar four weeks since his accident during a test session at Road Atlanta, but there is no denying he has been out-performing almost everyone in the Cup series. Since this is NASCAR (and you can never tell when a streak is going to start, or end) he may or may not have another outstanding performance this coming weekend, but he has definitely taken advantage of what looked to be a bad situation. As just about everyone must know, he now has three victories, is in eleventh place in the points race to get in the Chase and looks to be one of the top contenders for the Championship when the Chase actually gets started.

To say this fan has been surprised by his performance in the last four weeks could just be added to the growing list of understatements I’ve made over the last couple of months, but, let me ask you this question; “Did you think he was going to make the Chase after YOU heard about that testing accident ?” (Uh, huh… that’s what I thought…)

I’m thinking you thought, much as I did, he should forget about the Chase, focus on next year and just turn the rest of the season into R&D, at least until he healed up a bit. Man, you talk about adversity turning a season around… this has to be one for the books and Brad Keselowski has sure stepped up to the plate, driven through pain, a sore back and a broken ankle and delivered some stunning blows to several NASCAR drivers that still hold on to slivers of hope, as far as the Chase is concerned. The only thing he has to do over the next two weeks is stay in the top twenty in points and he will definitely be in the Chase. In fact, from my view, unless he cools off a bit performance-wise, he is going to be one of the ones to watch as the top twelve contend for the Championship (and could very well end up being the top dog when it’s all over for this year.

Now, don’t get your underwear in a wad… I only said “he could” do these things. It is no where near definite and it is nowhere near time to start calling him the 2011 Champ yet. Still, it is amazing what he has done in this latter part of the season.

There was another situation that surprised this fan just about as much as seeing Keselowski take the checkered flag last Saturday night and that was how strong of a car, Jeff Gordon had and how close he came to winning. As it was, we all know he finished third, after battling Martin Truex Jr for second place over the last several laps and all but locked up his spot in the top ten for the Chase. He and Kevin Harvick are tied at the moment for fifth place and both only need to be forty-nine points ahead of eleventh place to be locked into the top ten no matter what else happens. Say what you will about the four time Champ but he is definitely running strong (and honestly, I don’t think he’s peaked just yet…). I’m not really making a statement one way or the other here at the moment, but Jeff Gordon has been running strong over several weeks now.

I’m sure you noticed that Kyle Bush and Jimmie Johnson are already locked in and tied for first while Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are also locked in to the Chase. Matt Kenseth has been quietly running consistently good enough to be in third place for much of the season and Carl Edwards has appeared to be struggling over the last several races. They say they’re not, but perception is reality and they are perceived to be struggling (and not just from my view either.).

The race at Bristol this last weekend was one of the more interesting Bristol races and yet it was essentially the same. One thing that appeared to be missing, at least from this fan’s view, was an over abundance of hot tempers at the end of the night. I just didn’t see that much tension between different teams (although David Reutimann may disagree with me about that.)

With just two more races to go until the Chase starts, there has to be concern in the Richard Childress Racing camp. They didn’t just have a bad night, they had a terrible night and that is worth taking notice of as the Cup teams head for Atlanta. I’m sure if you ask them, there is no time like the present to start showing some muscle and gaining a little momentum…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 02, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Sprint Cup at Bristol from a NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanGo ahead, ask any driver and they will tell you they love short track racing because it is more like what they grew up doing and are used to. Not only is it a Saturday night race but there’s beating and banging and leaning on each other to make a move past someone.

One thing they won’t tell you is how short their temper might be when someone leans a little harder on them than they think they should or when someone sends them up the track to move them out of the way to pass them. That’s just one of the things many fans like about the short tracks NASCAR visits and a big reason why Bristol is one of the fan favorites of the entire season. It is why there will be one hundred and sixty thousand people in the seats surrounding the track at a place they call “the world’s fastest half-mile.”

This fan finds the closeness of the qualifying times for tonight’s race lineup very interesting. There is only around four tenths of a second separating the first starting position from the fortieth and if that won’t make it hard to pass, I don’t know what will. Sure, I know those are only one lap speeds and consistent lap times over the course of the race are what really counts, but still, that is a a powerful statement of the tightness of the competition in Sprint Cup these days. No matter how you look at it, it tends to point toward a very competitive race in Thunder Valley tonight.

I know the statistics say a driver has a better chance of winning if he starts near the front and I don’t totally disagree with that. From this fan’s view, starting out front is important but getting there and staying there are just as important and that can depend on a lot of things as the night progresses.

In tonight’s race, there is going to be an extreme amount of pressure on the pit crews to be mistake free the whole night. The drivers will have extra pressure on them to not speed in the pits and to protect their tires and cars and yet be aggressive and advance as far as they can toward the front. The crew chiefs will “only” have to have the perfect strategy all night long and make the perfect adjustments all during the race to keep their driver as happy and stress free as possible. (Now that doesn’t sound as if the crew chiefs have it difficult at all, does it…?)

From this fan’s view, even though a Chevy qualified for the pole and a Ford is on the outside pole, with the competition as close as it is, it is going to be another hard one to pick the winner of before the race starts. I know it doesn’t matter much what I think, but I still like to give my opinion of which ones to watch for taking the checkered flag at the end of the night. The Chevys and Fords looked very fast in practice and qualifying, but I still can’t discount the Toyotas or the Dodges. This is one of those races anyone can win from anywhere in the field in any brand.

Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards have a great shot at winning tonight simply because they start on the front row but so do about thirty others even though they don’t start on the front row. Even though I think some may choose to run the night cautiously, I still think some are almost in the desperation mode and will be trying just about anything they can to advance themselves in the points or get a win. Because of that, I’m thinking tonight could see just about any of the top thirty five starters could end up in Victory Lane tonight. Yes, I know some have a much better chance than others, but this is Saturday night short track racing and just about anything can (and usually does) happen.

Do I think Kyle Bush is going to win? Well, he sure has a great chance to, but then so does Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Bush also. Could this be a night where someone totally unexpected walks away with the trophy? Hey, I’m not going to rule that out either. It could be Marcos Ambrose or “the Dinger,” but honestly, I don’t think it is going to be Robby Gordon, although stranger things have been known to happen on a Saturday night at Bristol.

This night race is one of the more colorful night races in the sense that it has all of that beating and banging adding up to those short tempers and paybacks which makes the whole race eventful, especially at the end. With the extra intensity of qualifying for the Chase included in the night, this fan expects and even more eventful night of racing than usual. There is just too much on the line for too many drivers trying to seal the deal for getting into the Chase for it not to be a little different Bristol race tonight…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 27, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Watkins Glen After Thoughts from A NASCAR Fans View

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There’s definitely one advantage to an extended rain-delay when it comes to TV; When the thing is drawn out until they just have to move it to the next day, you find out a lot of things about the drivers they wouldn’t normally have time to tell you about. I just happened to be able to watch most of what went on for the three plus hours before they called it and moved it to the Monday morning time slot and it was fun to listen to them in a more laid back atmosphere.

Oh I know drivers get interviewed before every race, sometimes to ad-nauseum, but for some reason on Sunday afternoon, it just felt different. It seemed the drivers were more candid and less corporate; in other words, from this fan’s view it seemed we got a better feel for who they really are as opposed to when they put on the game face. It was a nice change of pace. (Who knows, maybe it was because it was at a road course.)

Monday morning may have been gray and overcast but it was not at all dull on the track and the intensity started right at the beginning of the race and didn’t let up until the very last official lap they ran. From this fan’s view, there was something going on just about everywhere in the field at one time or another and the race strategies for each team changed on a regular basis. That is, for at least thirty-five of the forty-three starters while the others just hoped to survive the weekend.

As it turned out there were more than eight or ten that needed to do more than just finish. Of course there was more than one that needed the race to go just slightly different than it did. too. One of those would be Tony Stewart, while Paul Menard and David Ragan would be a couple of more. Menard and Ragan looked as if they were going to come away from The Glen by closing the gap a bit on Denny Hamlin. Because of late race incidents, neither of them was able to do much at all. Menard cut down a tire which put him in the wall and Ragan was involved in a spectacular accident involving him, David Reutimann and several others. Needless to say, Ragan’s day was not at all what he needed to him to take advantage of the one victory he has this season.

Since I mentioned Denny Hamlin, this was another weekend he couldn’t buy a break if his career depended on it. It has been proven more than once over the years, that when you have a bad year, you have a bad year and it seems there is nothing you can do about it. Hamlin is in one of those years that comes along every now and then in a drivers career and to say things have gone unexpectedly wrong for him and his team this year is about as obvious as sunshine during the daytime. He is definitely having a bad year.

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem to get any better for the guy many thought was going to be the one to stop Jimmie Johnson from winning his sixth straight Cup Championship this year. Unless things change in a hurry for him and the #11 FedEx team, it looks like it is going to be up to someone else to take care of that (but I’m going to wait on talking about that until we get a few more weeks of racing done. After all, with the way things are going, things can change several times around those ninth through twelfth points spots before we actually get to the Chase.)
The end of the race was enhanced, at least competition-wise, by the blown tire of Paul Menard. Had it not been for that, the race would have likely finished under green and it would have still been a shootout. Of course we’ll never know, but, I still think it was going to be won by Marcos Ambrose, although it was going to be close. It was great to see him finally win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race and makes the next few weeks all the more interesting.

I know everyone has talked about it, but still, Brad Keselowski has really stepped up to the plate since his accident while practicing at Road Atlanta. This fan has noticed two things about him since that accident. First, he is a bit more humble and appears to appreciate life more than before it happened. Second, he has proven he is as tough as they come when it comes to dealing with adversity. I think many have gained much more respect for him after observing his performance over the last two weeks and seeing how determined he is. If he makes it into the Chase, which is a good possibility, this fan looks for him to make even more of a statement than he has in the last two weeks.

From this fan’s view, this was one of the more exciting and eventful races I’ve ever seen at The Glen and it wasn’t unexpected. The new points system and the fact the Chase is winding down to its conclusion has brought a whole new intensity to this time of the year, and it is showing in the attitudes of the drivers and teams, (whether they are in contention or not), and it has definitely added a lot of excitement and unknowns to the year. Don’t look for things to settle down over the next few weeks either, because they’re just not going to…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 17, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

Sprint Cup at Pocono from A NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanLate summer at Pocono is different than early summer. Just because someone finished in the top ten in June doesn’t mean the same will happen for them in August (although it could.) Coming into this weekend are several with the capability of winning on Sunday afternoon but which one will is the great question and before we actually find out, 500 miles will have to pass beneath the tires of the one who takes the checkered flag first.

One thing, in particular, stands out to this fan when it comes to this later race and that’s how many have found more speed and that alone makes this second race even more interesting and adds to the drama of the weekend.

Another thing about this race is the different agendas the teams are on when they arrive. Some have nothing to lose and can afford to experiment. Others absolutely must have a good finish to either stay in contention or move into position to be a participant in the important top twelve for the Chase. A few need a win just to help“seal the deal” for their place in those top spots, while others need to finish at or near the front just to put themselves in a place to be able to take advantage of winning a race and have a shot at those two wild card slots for the Chase.

From this fan’s view, it does seem there are some mind games going on amongst some of the teams. Already questions have been raised this week about the #11 FedEx Toyota of Denny Hamlin possibly sandbagging for an earlier qualifying draw and of course there is that possibility. If that was their plan, they absolutely needed it not to rain or they would have started way in the back anyway. So far, they are starting in a good spot.

Joey Logano turned the fastest lap during qualifying and will start on the pole (unless something happens between now and Sunday’s start to the race.) There is no doubt he drove a great lap and deserves to be on the pole. Now, the question remains, will it translate into a win for him on tomorrow?

From this fan’s view, the cloud cover did nothing but help all of the competitors and many of their qualifying speeds were well above what they ran in practice, (well, at least the first practice.) The obvious observation from that is if the sun is shining, look for the speeds to be slower.

Judging from the qualifying session, (which I really don’t like to do), shows another weekend where the Chevys didn’t show they had the fastest speeds. In fact, the Toyotas are looking very strong with four of them starting in the top six. One of them was Kasey Kahne and he had a very fast car at Indy last weekend. Although his finish didn’t show it, he was fast enough to win last weekend, had things gone a little different. I’m still mulling it over but I think he has a chance to be up front at the end of the race. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he is going to win, I’m just saying he has looked strong both of the last two weekends.

The Hendrick Chevys just weren’t fast during qualifying. Of them, Jimmie Johnson will start closest to the front on Sunday afternoon, but that is only in eighteenth spot. Of course Dale Jr starts in nineteenth so I guess both of them have a chance to move up but they will have a lot of cars to pass.

Now this is just this fan’s view, but I still think Jeff Gordon had the fastest of the actual Hendrick team Chevys. Had he not slightly over-driven turn three and hit the wall, he was on pace to take the pole. Instead he will start thirty first and that is not at all what he wanted to do. Since he won the race in June at Pocono, this fan still thinks he has a chance at sweeping the Pocono races, but he definitely has his work cut out for himself. Say what you will, but there is no way I’m counting out Jeff Gordon as a possible winner on Sunday at Pocono, but I will admit this… if he does win, he will have to run strong for 500 miles and pass a lot of cars.

As for the Childress Chevys, they looked good and I think unless misfortune happens, they have a good opportunity to get some continuity back and possibly a win for one of them. They seemed to all be running about the same and they all have as good a chance as anyone to finish at or near the top and come away from Pocono with a little more confidence as they move into the last several races before the Chase. Of all of the Childress teams, Jeff Burton needs the biggest miracle over the next several weeks to even have a chance at getting into a Wild Card spot for the Chase. A win this weekend could sure help, but I don’t expect him to be able make the cut by the time they start the Chase.

With a little of the pressure off now with the contract negotiations of the points leader, it will be interesting to see how all of the Roush teams fare this weekend, especially Carl Edwards. Do I think he will win, it is a definite possibility, but I’m more looking to likes of Denny Hamlin (who almost always seems to run well at this track) or possibly someone that has been running well this season but hasn’t won like, Tony Stewart or Clint Bowyer.

Pocono is a place where running consistent lap times is a must and I am sure it will come down to a fuel mileage race once again. If it comes down to a green-white-checker finish, I expect it to be a very interesting ending and, as is usually the case, anything can happen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 6, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at the Brickyard from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanIf you listen to all of the talk about where NASCAR Cup teams are racing this weekend, you hear a lot about the track in Indianapolis. There is no doubt the Brickyard is a historic track and has been around for many years. There is also no doubt it is a place that has an aura about it and, in my view, that aura is deserved.

For those of you that may not be familiar with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was built in 1909. With a history spanning over 100 years, it would be easy to go off on a tangent and get distracted from the NASCAR events in the area this weekend so I won’t do that, but if you want to know more about its history, there’s plenty to be found on Wikipedia and other places.

The speedway became know as ‘the Brickyard’ for a very simple reason; it was paved with bricks (although that was not the case originally.) Over the years with the change of technology and the general advancement of the engineering of the vehicles that race at the place, it is now paved in a way more conventional to today’s technology. When they did repave it the last time, they chose to keep the historic “Yard of Bricks” at the finish line and that is why the winning NASCAR team can still “Kiss the Bricks” which is a recent tradition instigated by 1996 Brickyard 400 winner, Dale Jarret and crew chief Todd Parrot. The completely spontaneous action quickly became a tradition for the winners of the Brickyard 400.

There are several things to remember when thinking about the race this weekend and some of them are just how important this race is to all of the competitors and how prestigious a race it is to win. Three races stand above the rest in NASCAR competition and winning them carries a certain amount of prestige for the drivers that do. Those three are, the Daytona 500, the Charlotte 600 and the Brickyard 400 in no particular order (other than Daytona.)

Another thing to remember is the race to the Chase is winding down with only seven races left to decide which of the teams will be competing for the coveted Sprint Cup Championship. That makes this race even more important, and for those trying to earn a spot in the Chase, having a good finish is a must and winning at the Brickyard wouldn’t hurt at all either.

When the teams show up at this historic track, they don’t bring junk to compete with, they try to bring their best cars, best engine packages and all associated equipment along with the hope the crews are in top form both mentally and physically. The pits will prove to be a very important place this weekend and, once again, spots gained there, will be some of the easiest passes made all afternoon. The racing groove is very narrow, (I’ve even heard some say it is only a half a groove wide), and that should prove to make the whole race very interesting, (uh, that is as long as someone hasn’t shown up with the entire field covered, as has happened in recent weeks.)

From this fan’s view, qualifying showed that no one came expecting to squeak by. It was all out and though some felt they were conservative and could have done slightly better than they did, most of them didn’t leave anything on the track. From listening to the drivers, it is obvious they know how hard it is going to be to pass and they wanted to qualify as good as they could to hopefully have a better spot in the pits.

The biggest surprise, (from my view, of course), was how well most of the Hendrick teams qualified after watching their practice sessions. Jimmie Johnson sat on the pole after his qualifying run until David Ragan took the spot from him late in the session. Kasey Kahne put a cap on his good weekend so far by qualifying second and moving Johnson to third. Jeff Gordon qualified eighth and Mark Martin twelfth. Unfortunately, Dale Jr once again only qualified twenty second, but as I said, the qualifying was very competitive. It does mean he will have a ways to go if he hopes to end up at the front, which he needs to do, (also my opinion.)

The Roush Fords haven’t usually done well at the Brickyard, but this year could be different. In fact, all of the Fords looked pretty tough from the time the teams started unloading off the trucks, in particular, the Roush Fords.

Do I think it is going to be a Ford weekend like I thought is would be a Chevy weekend two weeks ago. That is a tough call at a tough track like Indy. I do think Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards all look like they will do well and their other teammate, David Ragan, is sitting on the pole.

Will that translate into a victory for them this Sunday afternoon? From this fan’s view that is a very good possibility, but although Indy hardly ever has unexpected winners, this is a place that is a bit unpredictable when it comes to picking winners based only on practice and qualifying. In my opinion, they have a very good chance, but so does the Toyota of Kasey Kahne. He has looked every bit as strong as the Fords and this could also be a Red Bull weekend if Kasey has anything to say about it.

A few things are certain… the race will come down to pit strategy, fuel mileage and track position. With all of the turbulence these cars cause, if someone isn’t near the front, they may not have much of a chance passing enough cars to get there. It is also certain teams have brought their best to the Brickyard… the question is, will their best be good enough???

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 30, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Loudon After Thoughts from A Fans View

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You know, it isn’t often I start off with statements like I am about to make about a race, but, I think the race this last weekend in Loudon was one of the best overall races I have seen in a while. Whether it had something to do with the fact it was much like a normal weekend short track race and only 301 laps long, or because it went kinda like I figured it would, I don’ know. All I know is that it held my interest throughout all the 301 laps and, although it looked like we all knew how it was going to end, there was just enough doubt and drama as to who might win to make it interesting all the way to the drop of the checkered flag.

It is interesting how the luck of the two Stewart/Haas teams turned toward the positive and they finished the race exactly the way they started it. As we all know, Ryan Newman who sat on pole and Tony Stewart started with him on the front row and they finished first and second after the 301 laps. With the way their luck has been running over the first and middle part of the season, this fan thinks they were probably wondering what might go wrong in the closing laps but, all went well, neither of them ran out of gas and they crossed the finish line without any major disasters of any kind.

Jeff Gordon had a very fast car and constantly moved toward the front. That is, except when he had problems with the alternator not charging the batteries properly causing him to fall back and, at one time, he was a lap down. Even though he had those problems, he had moved back up into fourth place by the last lap. His troubles weren’t over even then though. On that last lap he had a flat tire that caused him to finish in eleventh as he crawled across the finish line.

From this fan’s view, he has to have mixed emotions about the day. Finishing eleventh had to be a major letdown with as strong as his car was and with how his crew kept him in the hunt even with the problems. He should be encouraged by the fact that his car was so strong and that could possibly mean he may have an even better race when the NASCAR Cup teams return to Loudon in the second week of the Chase. Naturally, all that is dependent on how he does over the next seven races and how he stands in the points when the Chase actually begins.

It was no surprise to me how the Fords finished. Marcos Ambrose was highest finishing Ford in ninth place and the next highest finisher was AJ Allmendinger from the Richard Petty camp. There were those that said they could have finished better but they were in fuel conservation mode. That may have been the case and we will have to take them at their word, but from my view, they just didn’t look like they had enough speed all during the race weekend to do much better than they did.

The Toyotas had a very strong weekend also, but Kyle Bush had a very rough weekend. It was obvious with all that was happening to him during the first part of the race, he was frustrated by the day. Still yet, we have been seeing a much more composed Kyle Bush this season and it has been an amazing transformation. He has been much less out of control, (although not anywhere near docile yet), and it is obvious he is maturing and working his way even closer to becoming a Cup Champion. Personally, I have enjoyed watching the process. From my view, he is much more likeable overall and yet he still lives up to one of his nicknames, “Wild Thing.”

Personally, I’m glad the Cup Series has a weekend off to catch their breath. It has been hectic and hard weeks since the last breather. One thing I notice when they have a break is there is generally a slight shift in momentum. I’m anxious to see how these last seven weeks go before the Chase begins and how the points shake out over the next few weeks. I really don’t see much happening with the top five or six, but there can still be ‘a whole lot of shakin’ going on’ in the rest of the top twelve. It also remains to be seen how those with wins in the top twenty figure into the final two wild card spots. It could get really interesting over the next few weeks in particular.

Overall, Loudon was a great race (and from this fan’s view, of course), it wasn’t that much of a surprise either. Going in everybody knew it was going to be a race where track position, fuel mileage and pit and tire strategy would all figure into the end results… and by the way; did anyone notice that it was a Chevy kind of day. Not only that but it was a Hendrick associated and Hendrick kind of day at that. (Hm-m-m… I wonder where I heard that?)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 21, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

NASCAR at Kentucky After Thoughts from A Fans View

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Well, Kyle Bush won the inaugural Sprint Cup Race at the Kentucky Speedway and he did it just the way I didn’t think he would. Yeah, that’s right, you got it, (and I know you already knew it)… He may not have led every lap but he did dominate the race. Although there were moments in the race that his winning might be in question, he had the fastest car throughout the night and once out front with two laps to go, from this fan’s view, there was no doubt he was going to win.

Once again, Kyle Bush has dominated a weekend and not just in the Cup series, but made a very strong statement in the Nationwide race by coming from the rear of the field and finishing third and won the Campingworld Truck race, too. To top it all off, he moved into first place in points for the Cup series ahead of Carl Edwards and looks to be a very real contender for the Cup Championship this year. Sure, I know it is way too early to start making predictions for the end results of the Sprint Cup Championship, but he is looking awfully strong at the moment.

Of course you and I both know looking strong with nine races to go until the Chase starts and ten races in the Chase itself doesn’t mean a Championship is definite. At best at this point, it is a definite maybe that Kyle will be in position to dethrone five-time consecutive Sprint Cup champ, Jimmie Johnson. In fact, there are several drivers I am sure won’t be sitting back and waiting for him to ease into the top spot during the Chase and, obviously, Jimmie Johnson is one of those.

From this fan’s view, it is probably fortunate that the Kentucky Speedway had some diverse problems with getting people into the track Saturday night for the capacity crowd. In fact, I would go so far as to say those problems have overshadowed the overall event. Now, I’m not trying to be critical here, but I would like to offer my “observations” on the night… Now please remember, these are just my observations of the overall inaugural Cup race on Saturday night.

The Kentucky track is known to be a track where the lap speeds are fast and there is usually a lot of racing room even though the track is rough and bumpy. Saturday was no different and the laps times were fast, but the racing was often single file and many found it was hard to pass. It is nothing new that the track changed between the time the race started and the time it ended (and it is expected that should happen when a race starts in the daylight and goes into the night.) More than one team had problems with one or the other of the racing conditions and some managed to get better while others just fell back.

During the night, there were several cars that looked strong but the #18 JGR car of Kyle Bush always seemed to have the field covered whether or not they were out front or not. In my opinion, he just wasn’t always pushing the envelope and was waiting for the race to come to him. I don’t think Kyle ever doubted he could win, but I do think he knew it all depended on how and when the cautions came out and how his team performed in the pits. (They were pretty much flawless all night from my view.)

It did seem that once a car was out front in the “clean air” it was easier for them to stay there for a period of time. I realize there is nothing new about that and it has been a normal situation for some time in NASCAR, it is just the nature of the beast these days. I think most fans expected this race to be a fuel mileage race and it very well could have been had it not been for the cautions near the end. In fact it is my opinion, had it not been for the cautions near the end of the race, the race would have been somewhat of a letdown when it came to excitement.

Fortunately for all concerned, the cautions did fly, the field was tightened back up and the end of the race was exciting and some of the drivers, (like Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and David Reutimann) made it more exciting than it might have been. Ryan Newman drove down on the apron on the final restart, followed by Carl Edwards and both made it the first turn and advanced their positions, while Jimmie Johnson pressured Kyle Bush for the lead. David Reutimann passed Jimmie Johnson on the last lap and finished second, his best finish this year. It makes this fan wonder what the opinion of the race would have been had there not been those late race cautions.

When all was said and done most of the talk since the race has been about the logistics problems and people that were turned away. Yes, it was a sellout crowd but most agree the traffic problems have to be solved and the people turned away after sitting in a major traffic jam for hours have to be dealt with in a satisfactory way. There is no doubt the addition of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at Kentucky Speedway is a great addition and the fans showed their appreciation by the turnout for all of the events this last weekend. I know NASCAR fans are loyal but I also know no one likes to feel as though they’ve been taken advantage of and these fans are no different when it comes down to it.

Oh and one more thing, I am sure NASCAR and SMI will remedy and solve the problems they had at Kentucky and hardly anyone will remember the inconveniences next year. That is, unless they are repeated…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 11, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions