Going For The Championship At Homestead from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Four of the forty cars on the track this weekend will be the only ones actually running for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship. As for the other thirty-six, well… let’s just simplify it and say, they’re running to win the Ford Ecoboost 400. You and I both know the emphasis will be on the ones running for the Championship and not on someone leading or winning it other than the four running for the Championship. Naturally if one of the final four wins it then what I just said becomes very unimportant. If it goes the other way though, well, prepare yourself for hardly any attention being paid to someone that might be considered “an also ran” even though they just won the final race of the 2017 season.

Another topic of conversation taking place all week long has been the “incident” between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin last weekend at Phoenix. I have listened to many of the statements and conversations about it and just can’t move on until I put in my two cents.

In usual fashion, (and particularly in this fan’s opinion) Denny Hamlin tried to marginalize his actions by comparing what he did three weekends ago to what Chase did last weekend. To paraphrase, he basically told us Chase would do the same if the situation were reversed which means to this fan that what he did wasn’t wrong, it was just racing the way “everyone is doing it these days.” He was apologetic after the fact (and especially after the negative way the fans reacted to his move) but still tried to pass off his action as one like everyone else was doing.

Well, here’s my opinion of what happened concerning Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin over those two races…

Let me say right up front and being honest as a fan, I was not heartbroken to see Denny Hamlin not make it into the final four. In fact, if he had made it into the Championship round of four, I would not have thought he deserved to be there. As he stated himself, his intention was to make sure that Chase wouldn’t make the turn at Martinsville and that Chase would not be able to win. Denny accomplished that but when the fans turned against him then and afterward, he had to re-evaluate his move. Once again, in my opinion, rather than take the responsibility and blame on himself, he tried to lessen his responsibility for his actions by saying everyone was doing it and Chase would do the same thing given the same circumstances. Well, when something similar did happen last weekend, Hamlin was one of the first to say, “See, I told you so…”

From this fan’s view and strictly in my opinion, had Hamlin not done what he did and the way he did it, there would have been no reason for Chase to race him the way he did at Phoenix. If he would have beaten him fair and square, (and that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t race hard), this fan believes there would have been no reason for payback and the whole situation could have been avoided completely. Oh and by the way, with Denny knowing there might be the possibility of some sort of payback, he could have raced Chase in the Phoenix situation a little differently. He could have backed off when Chase was under him and dropped in behind him, avoiding the wall and wheel contact and race him for the win or at least until Matt Kenseth passed them both at the end.

We all know what happened both weekends and have our own opinions but it would have been nice to see Denny take full responsibility without including others possible actions for a change. As I stated before, in his usual fashion he took a little blame on himself but also tried to blame his action on the action of others as he has in the past, at least that’s my opinion.

Well, I guess that’s enough of that and I should get back to this weekend’s Championship race at Homestead. There isn’t a lot to say that hasn’t already been said in some fashion over the past week about the four still in the hunt for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship. The only thing I can give is my thoughts and opinion of this race and it’s participants.

As I said earlier, the four competing for the Championship will garner most of the attention for the entire race. Still, there are several that could win the race although not the Championship. Some favorites are, Dale Jr., Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Matt Kenseth to name a few. Yes, even Denny Hamlin could win as much as I may dislike having to say it and there’s always that seven time Champion, Jimmie Johnson, and I’m sure he would like to end the year with a little redemption over the last few weeks. Even if someone other than the four wins it, it still won’t gain as much attention as which one of the four that actually wins the Championship. Sure, it will go into the books as a win for one of the. “also rans” but that will be about the extent of it.

If (in the usual hoped for fashion) one of the final four actually wins, it would be a grand victory for the one that does. Will it be Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Bush, Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski? Yeah, I think it very well could be one of the four but I’m not really sure which of them might pull it off. Martin Truex Jr. is the one everyone mentions as being the favorite but anything can happen in 400 miles even to a favorite. Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick are the next many have mentioned and Brad Keselowski is most everyone’s “dark horse.”

In this fan’s opinion there are several others than can win the race but I’m not really sure which of the four can. If things go as usual and I pick one, they might be the first ones to have problems and have to leave the race. Still, though I have my doubts, I really think it is going to be between Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Does that mean I’ll be surprised if one of the other two wins it? No, but I’ll definitely be watching to see who does. Oh, and by the way. Dale Jr. would like nothing better than to leave his last race in regular competition in NASCAR Cup with a victory at Homestead. Hmmmm… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, huh?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 18, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Five Of The Eight Need To Win At Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Five of the remaining eight competitors in the Round of Eight need to win on Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway to guarantee themselves a spot in the Championship finale at Homestead next weekend. The problem is, only one can win the race and that means four of those five won’t make it. Oh sure, one of them can qualify on points without a win but there is no guarantee one of the five won’t win so moving on to the finale on points is just, well… it’s a hope that may not come to fruition. They’re all going to have to pull out all the stops and go all out to win. That means drivers, crew chiefs and crews – all of them. This race at Phoenix is going to be about as pressure packed for those five drivers and teams as any of the races in the playoffs. The only guarantee is to win or at least gain as many stage points as possible without a win and hope one of the other five doesn’t win.

Nothing like stating the obvious, huh? All of this I know you’ve probably heard many times this week from the various talking heads and venues but this elimination race at PIR is going to be short, quick and to the point. It is a relatively short race and the results are dependent on how fast the five can accumulate points or the victory before it’s too late.

The driver with the greatest chance to move on by points is Brad Keselowski but even he isn’t resting easy on his points so far. He knows just as the other four do that nothing in this playoff elimination race is definite. He has just as much of a chance at moving on to the finale as the others do. Knowing Brad as we do, we know he will do everything he can, along with his crew chief and crew to better his chances during the race. I’m not saying any of that to say he is going to make it but that he does have a great chance considering.

Denny Hamlin could jump into the final four and his chances are high but it depends on the same thing as the rest. Like Brad, he could take all the stage points possible for him to take and finish second in the race and still not move on if one of the other five wins. That’s what will make this one so dramatic and intense, especially as the laps wind down to none. Well, at least from this fan’s view that is.

Ryan Blaney started off the weekend in a very good way since he won the pole and gets the best choice of pit stalls. There is nothing like having the best pit stall when it comes down to crunch time. So not only does he have a fast race car but a good pit stall and all that put together could spell trouble for the other four and him advancing on to the Championship four. Of course there is nothing that says winning the pole and having the best pit stall spells victory. In fact, the only things about winning the pole says is that you had the fastest lap compared to the others and you get the first choice (and best choice) of pit stalls. Beyond that, well… that’s it.

That brings me to the two Hendrick teams still in the hunt. Unfortunately both of them are in a must win situation. From this fan’s view, there may be some other long shot way for them to move on but let’s just keep this in the realm of reality. They both have to win but therein is the rub… only one of them can.

Of the five still able to take the one remaining spot and based on recent performance, Chase Elliott is more likely to than his teammate Jimmie Johnson. It would be very exciting and dramatic if he wins his first race and qualifies for the Championship all at the same time but, from this fan’s view, I just don’t know if that will happen. I do believe he has a better chance than JJ but I’m just not sure the Hendrick teams have the speed. I know of the four Hendrick teams, the #24 has been the most consistent throughout the entire year. Chase has had chance after chance to win and something has always happened to keep him from it, including a little help from my least favorite, Denny Hamlin, (but that’s a whole other story in itself that I really don’t want to go into. Maybe someday but not now.)

I have to admit I would like to see both Chase and Jimmie move on but I know that can’t happen and it could be that neither of them make it. I really would like to see Chase win his first race and have a real chance at winning in Homestead next week. I would also like to see Jimmie Johnson move on to the Championship four and have a chance at doing something that hasn’t been done in NASCAR before and that would be winning his eighth Championship. I would really like to see it but, the way he’s been running lately, I’m not holding my breath.

At any rate, this race at Phoenix International Raceway is going to be the most dramatic and intensely emotional elimination race we’ve seen. I’m not even going to guess what will happen but I will say this. There will be no holds barred and I expect to see all five of the crew chiefs exercising all kinds of different strategies and taking some big risks every chance they get. It could mean the difference between moving on to the Championship Four or being an also ran any way you look at it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 11, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Texas Is Next In The Round Of Eight from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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After all the bumping, banging, drama and emotion of last week’s race at Martinsville, everyone is wondering how, and if, the race at Texas Motor Speedway will top the events of the short track excitement generated in usual fashion for short tracks. From this fan’s view, I have to admit it was a race that kept my attention for most of the 500 laps and it was definitely “short track excitement” that kept my attention.

In typical fashion for short track driver mentality, there was no lack of emotion or aggressiveness. With this being the playoffs, it was even more emotional and aggressive for the eight drivers trying to cement their place in the final four at Homestead. With that in mind and as a fan, I can’t help but put in my two cents of some of the “things” that happened there.

The major topic of conversation this week has been what happened between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliot. In case you missed it, (which I doubt is the case), Denny Hamlin put Chase Elliott into the wall trying to win the race. Well, maybe that is a little bit harsh. Perhaps I should say he, “moved him out of the way and he hit the wall.” At least that’s the way I remember it from an interview right after the race last weekend. In ususal fashion, Denny first placed blame on the fact that everyone is doing it rather than take responsibility for his actions. Later, after the emotions had passed, he did take marginal responsibility but only as far as saying he had never been one that did such a thing but now he had joined those that did and do. Now, at this point in the conversation and a weekend later, he says he didn’t mean to spin him, it wasn’t intentional.

From this fan’s view, and as a former driver, I know that many of us as drivers have done things we later regretted. Personally, I blame it on adrenaline and intense emotion that clouds the thinking and decision-making process, especially in competition. There is a lot of adrenalin flowing while driving competitively in stock cars and, in particular, at the NASCAR Cup level. The importance of making it to the final four and race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship at Homestead is almost beyond explanation, especially to the drivers and teams. Oh, and did I mention it is important to their sponsors as well…?

Whether you are a Denny Hamlin fan or a Chase Elliott fan may or may not shade your opinion of what happened last weekend but it definitely did cause major fan reactions immediately after it happened and all week long. The conversation is carrying over into the race this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway but a lot of the speculation about what could happen likely won’t.

In this fan’s opinion, I don’t think Chase Elliott is going to go out gunning for Denny Hamlin and only looking to spin him into the wall. Of course it is possible he could think about doing the same thing Hamlin did to him if he is behind him and they are going for the lead in the final laps. That is something Denny will have to consider if he is in the lead and sees Chase on his rear bumper in his rearview mirror with the laps dwindling down to one or two. I don’t know what might happen then but at this point, Chase pretty much needs a win to make it into the finale and, well… I guess we’ll just have to see what happens if that scenario plays out. Personally, I don’t think Chase Elliott is the type person to do that but, as history in another series has proven, he is quite capable.

Hamlin and Elliott weren’t the only drivers still in the playoffs that had on-track situations causing heightened emotions. Two that come quickly to mind are Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick. The two rubbed fenders and banged bumpers almost all race long at Martinsville and both experienced frustrations with the other. It never rose to the level of Hamlin and Elliott but it could have just as easily. They did have their post-race discussion and both shared their frustrations with the other. I don’t think last weekend’s experience will carry over to this weekend’s race but this is the playoffs and it is NASCAR – so who knows.

As it stands going into the race at Texas Motor Speedway, there are only two races left to make it into the final four and there are seven drivers determined to make it there. Only one person has no pressure on him and that is Kyle Bush. He won at Martinsville and he is guaranteed to be in the finale at Homestead because of that win. As for the others, well, the pressure is on them until they either have enough points to be locked in or win one of the next two races and lock themselves in. The intensity, emotion and pressure is on all seven of them and their teams to perform at Texas and that is going to make this weekend and next very intense and emotional for all of them. I don’t know how you feel about it but it should be a very interesting two weekends, don’t you think…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 4, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Round Of Eight Begins At Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Martinsville is the kickoff race for the “Round of Eight” as the remaining teams compete for the opportunity to advance to the Championship race at Homestead. As was proven last weekend, there is no guarantee for any of them at this point. The only thing that can give them a definite opportunity to move on to the finale is to win one of the next three races in this round. The problem with that is there is another thing that offers no guarantee for them to move on and that is there are thirty-two other cars running in these next three races that could possibly win a race and take away the opportunity for them to be guaranteed a spot in the final four.

Okay, maybe that is an over statement and even an oversimplification of the possibilities facing the eight remaining competitors for the 2017 Championship, but the reality is nothing is definite without a win in the next three races. Probably the one driver that could make it without a win is Martin Truex Jr. simply because he has been racking up the extra points every week. That’s not to say he is a definite but his chances are better than some still in the remaining eight. Even with three available chances for advancing with a win, and considering three of the remaining eight could win a race to advance, one of the eight will still advance by points. That makes for a very interesting situation as the next three races get put in the books.

The pressure is on all of them to perform over the next three races and to take as many stage points as possible in every race to counteract any possible bad finish in one of them. From this fan’s view there are now more possibilities for someone other than the remaining eight to win any one of the next three races. Some very good cars were eliminated from the competition for the Championship because of the “Big One” at Kansas last weekend along with Kyle Larson’s engine failure. I’m not saying that none of the eight will win one of the next three races but I do offer it up as a possibility which could make everything much more intense and dramatic over these next three races.

This weekend will be slightly different than the usual weekend at Martinsville. Both qualifying and the race will take place on the same day and that is not only different but interesting. As a fan, I wonder if NASCAR is trying things to see how they might work out in future races at different tracks and how this could change the way races are put on in the future. I don’t mind if they do and it could prove to be a change that will make things more interesting but I am not sure what it is all about. Sure, I know what they say their reasoning is but I also know NASCAR doesn’t do anything for no reason. No matter what, it will still make for an interesting change to the usual and I like that.

Seeing that the Martinsville track is the oldest track still on the present circuit, this fan wonders what can be said about the track that hasn’t been said numerous times in the past. We already know it is a challenging flat track that the drivers seem to have a love/hate relationship with it but what, if anything, new can be said about it. Personally, I don’t have anything but I do keep my ears open for things like that. After all, it is considered a short track and it is full of stuff that happens at short track races on a regular basis.

That is probably one of the things about it that makes it so interesting. It is a short track and things happen at short tracks that generally don’t happen at larger, faster tracks. All of them add up to emotional intensity that is more likely expressed visibly (and sometimes forcefully) than at other tracks. In other words, payback can come quickly and sometimes harshly, simply because of the height of emotions involved at a short track. It has happened before and it will happen again. Unfortunately, the ones with the most to lose when those emotions rear their head are the ones still competing for the Championship. Their hope is to keep their emotions in check and hope they don’t get caught up in someone else’s emotional response. Like it or not and whether or not it is one of the eight or others, it can and does happen.

When it comes to Martinsville, this fan doesn’t pay too much attention to which of the drivers has the fastest laps in practice. Since the pit selection was set from last week’s qualifying, qualifying only serves to set the lineup for the start of the race. After that, well… it is just about anyone’s guess as to how things will go. Will it be a good day or a bad one for the eight still in competition for the 2017 Championship remains as the only question that won’t be answered until this one is over and, of course… that’s why we will be watching it to the final lap and the drop of that black and white checkered flag…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 28, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Four More Will Be Eliminated After Kansas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Ahhhh, Kansas… Kansas Speedway that is. A place that will definitely spell elimination for four drivers presently still in the playoffs and advancement for the other six still not qualified for the next round of three races. That would be the “Round of Eight” for those that may not be following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as closely as others. That means the final race for the Championship is coming fast and time is running out for those that hope to make it to the final four at Homestead in November.

From this fan’s view, Martin Truex Jr. looks to have an advantage over the rest of the field and his performance has been spectacular for most of the 2017 season. If I were to call the Cup series champion before the final race, I would certainly put Truex Jr. at the top of that list. After all, he has had top notch performance at the mile and a half tracks this season and he did win the pole for the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday afternoon.

As an added bonus, he gets first pick for pit stalls for next week’s race at Martinsville. As has been made very clear to us this weekend, the teams will still qualify next weekend at Martinsville but the pit selections will be based on the way they qualified this weekend. That is definitely an interesting twist to things but just tends to make things a bit more interesting. The number one pit stall at Martinsville is the most treasured one for that track and it could definitely give Truex Jr. an advantage next weekend whether he qualifies well or not. That could set him up for advancing to the race at Homestead for the Championship which, at least from this fan’s view, he is already one of the most likely candidates to be competing for the Monster energy NASCAR Cup Championship and it could be the first Championship of his career.

Unfortunately, I know fortunes can turn on a dime in NASCAR Cup racing and it would be a little premature for me to choose him as the Champion at this point. Still, he is a top choice for being in the final four and running for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

The biggest thing about this weekend’s race at the Kansas Speedway it that it is the second elimination race of the 2017 playoffs. You can bet the focus during most of the race will be on the ones already below the cut line and those that could fall below the cut line. Only one can win and that could mean the worst of the top twelve could make it to the next “Round of Eight” by winning and the rest will have to have a really good day or they will be gone from the playoffs by Sunday evening.

Last weekend’s race at Talladega completely changed the alignment in the Round of Twelve and did put more pressure all of the ten teams not yet qualified for moving on to the next round to outperform their competitors. No matter how you look at it, this is going to be an intense race and desperation could cause some very interesting moves and strategies. The only two without pressure to perform this weekend would be Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski since both of them have won races in the last two weekends. That doesn’t mean much to the ten that need to be in the top eight by the end of the Hollywood Casino 400 but it does matter that they want to win and guarantee themselves a spot in the Round of Eight. As for the ones that don’t win, well… it is going to be one of the most stressful races so far this season and none of them can afford to have a bad day.

Once again, it appears the Hendrick Chevys are struggling to find speed if only qualifying is considered as a judgement of their performance. This is the first year in a while that this fan remembers them looking the way they look – and they do look like they are struggling – at least from this fan’s view. At least Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson were close to making it into the final round of qualifying but instead, they could only muster thirteenth and fifteenth between them. Of course after Ryan Blaney failed post qualifying inspection, they moved up a place to twelfth and fourteenth. That may help a little, but they both need to have a really, really good day on Sunday, especially Jimmie Johnson.

So it comes down to this; there are some that almost have no chance of advancing to the next round unless they win. Since only one of the 40 entries can win, that doesn’t offer much hope to those hoping to take one of the six spots remaining to move on to the next round. What it looks like form this fan’s view is that all of the ten need to finish at or very near to the front and let the cards fall as they may. Stage points are very important for this one and for some, winning and/or scoring a lot of points in the stages is the only hope they have to advance to the Round of Eight…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 21, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Round Of Twelve Begins At Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The round of twelve begins at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. After last week’s race four were eliminated from competing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship and that leaves twelve competing for a spot to move on to the round of eight after the next three races. So far the most interesting race of the three for the first round of sixteen was last weekend and, in this fan’s opinion, that was only because four of the sixteen were being eliminated from moving on to this next round.

Say what you will but from this fan’s view, the racing has been mostly lack luster this season and during this “playoff” part of it. There has just been something missing and I’m just not exactly sure what it is. Maybe as the races begin winding down to the finale at Homestead things will pick up but so far it has only been marginally interesting.

Now admittedly, I do have favorites even though I try to be neutral and fair when it comes to all of the teams competing. I do realize my bias does raise its head at times and there are absolutely those that I would rather not see win or even finish near the front. Although I have those opinions, I do try to keep them in check the best I can. This year in particular I think it has been harder to do than in past years. Maybe it’s because I’m older and the drivers I used to follow, observe or even obviously or secretly root for have either retired, are retiring or have left the scene all together. I keep watching but it’s just not the same… well at least not yet.

As I have mentioned in recent weeks, I do like the addition of the stage racing and what it has done to make the drivers press the envelope more to gain those precious available points. I also like the lower down force changes which have made the cars a little bit more unruly and appear to make the drivers and crews work a bit harder to get as much out of their cars as possible.

Anything NASCAR does to improve the competition or make for closer racing usually has a downside too. Like any other year, it does seem like one or more of the teams find an advantage over the rest and the Toyotas, especially the Joe Gibbs and JGR associated teams, have that advantage over the others for the present. Not that I don’t appreciate how Martin Truex Jr. has performed this year but he just isn’t one of my favorites. However, I cannot and will not try to argue against what he has accomplished this season. He and his team have done a great job this season and I congratulate them on their accomplishments. He very well could be the next Monster energy NASCAR Cup Champion.

Kyle Bush is another of the JGR camp that has been impressive. He has almost been the only competition Truex Jr. has had recently and he is one I expect will be in the final four and it could be between him and Truex Jr. for the championship in that final race for 2017. I am by no means saying it is a lock for either of them but for the present they do look strong. One has to wonder what it could be like if the final four turn out to be from the JGR camp. That’s definitely not what I would like to see but it is a definite possibility at this point. I guess we’ll see about that.
This year has probably been more of a disappointment to Dale Jr. than we as fans of NASCAR and Dale Jr. will ever know. It is my opinion that he would have liked to perform much better than he has in this his final year in NASCAR competitively. If there is a dark horse for this race at Charlotte, I would have to pick Dale Jr. It won’t get him into the final but it would definitely make a very large number of people very happy if he does win.

With two of the other JGR teams sitting on the front row for the start of this one, I would have to say there is the possibility either Denny Hamlin or Matt Kenseth could walk away with the trophy when this one is done. I’m not saying that will happen but it could and that would make the rest of this round of three races all the more interesting.

Just can’t walk away from this without mentioning Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. All three of them are ones to watch for winning this one and I expect they will be in the conversation when it comes down to crunch time.

Wow, now that I think about it, the possible top ten for this one is really beginning to fill up with the choices I’ve made so far and any one of them, or a couple of others, could pull off the victory when they finally get to run this one (whether the rains come early or late.) I guess picking one of the ones I’ve mentioned to win is what I should do but the problem is, I just don’t which one of those mentioned or unmentioned will actually do it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 7, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Four Will Be Eliminated After Dover from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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First, let’s just mention what every NASCAR fan already knows. Of course you know that would be when this race at Dover is over, four drivers will be eliminated from the playoff picture. That in itself is no big deal for many, (unless you are one the four drivers eliminated when it’s done), but it should prove to make this race a little more intense than it might have been in a normal circumstance. There are four drivers that almost have to win to still be in or their hopes for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship in 2017 are done.

For some reason this season, I’m just not sold on the new playoff format. Maybe it’s just because I’ve had a lot going on in the last month and a half with flooding and Hurricane Irma and haven’t been able to play as close attention as I normally would or, maybe I’m just not sold on it yet.

I do admit some of the changes NASCAR made this year have proved to be interesting and, although I was admittedly non-committal for a short period of time, I do like the addition of the stages to the races. It appears it has caused the racing to be more intense throughout a whole race but I’m just not sure about this playoff situation yet. So far it has been uneventful, at least from this fan’s view, or maybe it is because the first two races have been fairly dominated by two drivers namely, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Bush. For some reason it just seems they have a bit of an advantage over the rest of the field, especially those in the playoffs. Honestly, so far I have seen more drama coming from the descriptions of the talking heads (or the commentators, depending on your preference) than I have from the actual racing. I realize they try to make it interesting, but really, their reactions are much more excited and describe something more exciting than what is actually going on.

I don’t know, maybe I’ve just gotten bored this season or maybe I’ve just had too much going on to be as attentive as I normally would be by this time in the season. I guess it could be that I’m just not as big a fan of those that have been dominating the races lately as I am of others or maybe it is because I’m just not that interested. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am still a big NASCAR fan but this season just hasn’t been all that interesting to me for whatever reason. Doesn’t mean I haven’t watched every week and it doesn’t mean I haven’t paid attention to my favorite sport, there just seems to have been something missing and I really don’t have any other explanation than that.

Okay, I think I’m through with my little rant here and, just maybe, the rest of the playoffs will be more exciting and dramatic than they have been so far. I’m not really complaining, (even though I am sure it sounds like I am), but I am offering something from this fan’s view that others are feeling as well. I hear many talk about it week in and week out and also hear the reports of how attendance is down and the stands aren’t as full as they have been in the past. I have an opinion on that too but that’s for a whole other post that I don’t want to go into right now. Far be it from me to try and educate the NASCAR ruling body but somebody has to say it and it just may be me in the near future (or when the season is over and I give my opinion and assessment of the 2017 season.)

Dover is a track that is relatively hard to pass on and track position and pit stops have a large impact on how the day may play out for those trying to stay in the playoffs. Four of the drivers are basically assured of making it into the next round. Eight of the remaining twelve are fairly secure, (barring a disastrous day at Dover), but four of those twelve will be gone when the day is done. The ones on the cusp of being done are presently the lowest ones in points so far.

Kasey Kahne and Kurt Bush almost have to win to continue on to the round of twelve. Now I could go on and mention all of the possibilities in front of all of the drivers but that would be pointless at this point. There are a lot of possibilities and one of them is which of the drivers in the field wins this race. There is a lot of room for spoilers to take the win and then everything amongst the 16 is going to be all about points and four of them will definitely be eliminated according to points.

This will likely be one of the most dramatic races so far in the playoffs and could be one of the most intense and dramatic for the entire year. Because this one is an elimination race, there will be emotion, drama and intensity and that will make for an interesting day. The focus will likely be more on the four likely to be eliminated and less on which one of the field wins… well… that is unless one of the most likely to be eliminated wins and totally changes the playoff landscape…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 30, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Playoff Race #2 At New Hampshire Motor Speedway from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well, hello everybody. It’s good to be back. I had a slight interruption in my ability to do these because of hurricane Irma. Don’t let anyone tell you any different, it was very rough down here in SW Florida (and, of course, elsewhere) and it did interrupt our lives for more than a week and almost two now. Between getting ready for the storm and then enduring it and cleaning up afterwards (which is something we are all still doing) it has been difficult to find the time to write about NASCAR.

I know others have managed but I just couldn’t do it all so I chose to take a couple of weeks off to take care of stuff. You see, not only did we have to contend with Irma, but before she showed up, had about 17 inches of rain where I live. That means I was flooded out of my home twice in three weeks. Didn’t even get the first one cleaned up before Irma hit and did it to us again.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I am very thankful that my light and present circumstance was not worse (and believe me, many had and have bigger problems than I did and do) because there is no doubt in my mind that it could have been much worse than it was. After experiencing Irma, there is no doubt in my mind that it was a life changing happening for millions of people. I have been through three major hurricanes in the last 13 years but this one was the worst one for several reasons but I don’t need to go into that any further here. I just wanted to explain why I missed the last two weeks of blogposts about Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racing from a NASCAR Fan’s View.

So what better place to return to talking about Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racing than the second playoff race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. I think this is one of the more challenging tracks the drivers and teams face on the circuit. It is a very challenging, almost flat track and thought the drivers tend to love it, they also tend to dislike it immensely at times. Some do well at New Hampshire and some don’t. Even with the “Sticky Stuff’ they use on the track to help with grip, the drivers still struggle to stay in the groove. Unfortunately, at least from this fan’s view, the “Sticky Stuff” does wear off as the race progresses and it can have a drastic effects. The drivers rely heavily on the “Sticky Stuff” to make their cars handle and when it is gone, the wall isn’t that forgiving. If they hit it, it will definitely make for a bad finish for them depending on the severity of the contact. (But then you already know all of that… don’t you?)

As far as the way the first playoff race went, it seems that penalties had a lot to do with how several finished. Some of those penalties are even carrying over into this one. Between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Elliott I don’t know which one fared worse. Both of them paid a price and it definitely puts more pressure on them and their teams for this week.

Of course the penalties for the #24 team add up to a much different situation than the #17. Chase lost his crew chief and car chief and that probably won’t help his situation, at least in the first part of the race. I’m not saying he will come out of it on the plus side but then again he is one of the Hendrick Motor Sports teams. That means the reserves go deep and it may or may not make much of a difference. I guess that’s one where we’ll just have to see how it turns out over the next two weeks.

Ricky Stenhouse on the other hand just hasn’t looked all that good this weekend and the #17 team has struggled. That may or may not bode well for his chances to advance into the second round of the playoffs even though there is this race and one more before the first cut.

I will be watching this one with interest if for no other reason than to see if Kyle Bush can make it to the end of a playoff race without he or his team making mistakes that could cost him a chance to advance into the second round in two weeks. So far, mistakes have cost him. Even though he had a fast car last weekend, it did him little good. One thing this new format seems to do is focus on the mistakes committed and how much it costs the teams that commit them.

It is obvious (at least to this fan) that Martin Truex could end up as the Champ for 2017 if he and his team continue to perform as they have. They have looked fairly invincible as the year has progressed and this stage format seems to suit them at least somewhat better than the others. However, Kyle Larson, in particular, may have something to say about that. Well, him and about 14 others…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 24, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Throwback Time And Two To Go At Darlington from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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This weekend’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is a throwback to cars that look like ones from the middle and late 80’s. Not only do the cars look like (or similar to) those from that time in NASCAR history but the drivers and crews have picked upon the look as well. From the way their fire suits look to the way they wear their hair (and sometimes, facial hair) it is definitely a trip down a nostalgic memory lane. Watching the cars on the track is a little like watching some old footage of races from those days.

Along with the throwback theme of today, not all that much has changed for the Darlington Raceway. Even though it was repaved several years ago, it has returned to much of what it was known for for so long. That would be the way it eats up tires and the fact it is still one of the toughest tracks on the present-day NASCAR circuit. It is still basically a one groove race track and that groove is set up near the wall. Sure, there can and will be passing but more often than not, we will see most of the drivers getting as close to the outside wall as they can. I won’t use the word comfortably because in listening to the talk, there is no comfort for the better part of 500 miles.

Another important thing to consider for this Southern 500 is that there are only two races left before the playoffs begin and that means at least one driver is going to make it into the final 16 for the playoffs by points. That may not sound like a very big deal but it is. Before the Southern 500 even begins, there are three drivers that could get in by points but someone is going to win this race and it may be one of them or it could be someone else.

One of those would be Clint Bowyer. He could get in with a win even though he is presently 17th in points. Since he sits just outside the make or break point for the playoffs, he could possibly get in on points but only if he has extremely good finishes while one of the those in the spots just ahead of him would have to have EXTREMELY bad weekends over the next two races. Personally, it is my view he would rather have a win rather than endure the stress of the points battle over the next two races. He is 58 points behind Jamie McMurray and 61 points behind Matt Kenseth. Chase Elliot is 69 points ahead of Bowyer so he is the least likely to be taken out by points, but it I guess it could happen.

Joey Logano absolutely needs to win to get in. The way I figure it, there is no mathematical way he can get in on points. (Of course you know there is no mathematical way he can get in, along with everyone else and me but, I was trying to add a little drama to an undramatically tense situation.) Without a win there is just NO WAY he will make the playoffs.

Logano is not alone in needing a win to get in. Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Trevor Bayne and Dale Jr. simply cannot make it in without a win even if one of them finishes second in both of the last two races. To coin a popular phrase from where I used to live, “There just ain’t no way!!!” Without a win it just isn’t going to happen. No matter how much his fan’s would like to see it, Dale Jr. needs a win to make it in and there are no two ways about it.

Now that I’ve brought it up, Dale Jr. could win and that would completely change the landscape for the playoff picture whether he wins at Darlington or Richmond. It is this fan’s opinion he won’t win either of them but stranger things have happened. Judging from the way he’s been running lately, I just don’t think he will pull it off. I’m not saying he won’t, I’m just saying the chances are very low.

So with only two races left to get a win to make it into the playoffs, these next two races will have a lot of drama and emotion involved for those outside the sixteen places already, not to mention those already in but without a win to clinch their spot. I don’t know about you but these next two weeks could be VERY interesting.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 3, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

NASCAR Under The Lights At Bristol from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well… it’s that time again. Yeah, it’s time for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams to take on the Bristol Motor Speedway and this trip it is under the lights. “Saturday Night Under The Lights – Saturday Night Under The Lights!!” Forgive me but, every time I think about NASCAR’s Saturday night races, those words seem to always ring out in my mind. Although it was quite a long time ago, that was from and old radio commercial for the races every Saturday night on the favorite station my friends and I listened to in our area down in Florida where I live. Admittedly it was from a track I never frequented while driving my own stock car. Mostly that was because it was a three hour pull each way to get there if we wanted to go there to race but it was on the same night as our local races at our local tracks. I do admit though, the ad really made me want to…

The track at Bristol goes, or at least has gone, by several names over the years. The most memorable have been Bristol International Speed way, Thunder Valley and the latest,
Bristol Motor Speedway. No matter what you like to call it, it’s probably always going to be referred to by most as “It’s Bristol Baby!” One thing about it that will probably never change is the statement that calls it what it is – The world’s fastest half mile track. From this fan’s view and the view of many others, it is definitely that.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing it but there are only three races left until the playoffs and that means extra tension and intensity will be added to an already intense and emotionally charged race. There are three that are already qualified by points and several more that would like to win and hopefully make it in to the playoffs. Nothing has changed from last week. Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and Matt Kenseth are still in on points if one of the drivers below them doesn’t win and knocks one of them out. In fact, if there are three new winners over the next three weeks and one of them is none of the three mentioned, all three of them wouldn’t make it into the playoffs.

One of the biggest problems facing any of those that want to win to get in or to just get into the playoffs by points is that it is likely someone is going to win the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. It just probably isn’t going to be someone that hasn’t won already this season. The two likeliest drivers from this fan’s view would be the two Kyles, Kyle Bush and Kyle Larson. Kyle Bush has already won twice at the track this week and both he and Larson like running the top of the track.

I guess right now your thinking, “Hey Rusty, did you forget that Erik Jones won the pole?” No, I didn’t forget and I am glad for Erik that he won his first Cup pole at the prestigious and historic Bristol track. You see, it’s just that I don’t put a whole lot of stock in pole positions meaning all that much during a race. Of course I know the pole winner gets great pit selection and I know sometimes the pole winner actually does win the race. My problem with it is that more often than not, the person that generally wins isn’t the one sitting on the pole. In fact, it can often be someone sitting in the middle or back of the field and just didn’t have a great, or even good, qualifying lap. With the PJ1 (also known as “Sticky Stuff” ) being used on the track, it is my view that it won’t last throughout the race and the top groove will be where just about everyone ends up running by the end of the night.

The Hendrick Teams looked to be struggling for speed during the practice sessions and in qualifying and it could be a long night for most, if not all, of the HMS teams. Yeah, I know there were some bright moments but this fan just didn’t see the usual speed and balance they usually acquire by qualifying and race time. I can’t tell if they are holding back and trying not to show what they really have for the playoffs or if they just don’t have the edge yet. Chase Elliott has shown a little consistency in the speed department along with Kasey Kahne (well, at least somewhat when it comes to Kasey) but Jr. and Johnson just haven’t looked all that good for a while. Jr. appears to just be struggling to find the speed and handling and Johnson just hasn’t had the speed or the handling.

When it comes down to it, Jr. still needs that win if he wants to have a chance at making it into the playoffs is this his final year. As it stands right now, at least from this fan’s view, he still hasn’t got that snownball’s chance in that very hot place I mentioned last weekend to make it in without getting a win. The pressure is definitely on for him and his team but unfortunately, without a win he won’t be in.

The same goes for the Penske Ford’s… neither Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski have shown the consistency it takes to win at Bristol and, although this fan thinks either of them could step it up and take the win, I just don’t see it happening. That would definitely be bad news for Joey Logano because as it stands right now, he is another one that won’t be in unless he wins one either at Bristol or one of the remaining tracks before the playoffs start.

So let’s see… the drivers will have to contend with the PJ1 slowly disappearing as the race progresses, the stages, the tight pit road and tight pit stalls and high emotion and elevated stress levels for those trying to win or just make it in for 500 laps. Add to that the fact that the Bristol Motor Speedway is the fastest half mile track in the world and drivers that want to get to the front by going two and three wide on a regular basis and there will be frustration and high emotions (which is just a normal thing for racing Saturday Night Under The Lights) and you have one thing… That’s right, “It’s Bristol Baby!!!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 19, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Chances Winding Down – Cup Teams Take On Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams take on the Michigan International Speedway for the second time in a little less than two months. Once again they will challenge the recently repaved track and it remains to be seen if the track surface will allow at least two grooves for racing or if it will still be basically a one grove race track. On their last visit to MIS, it was pretty much one groove and the best one happened to be the higher one.

Maybe it’s just me but it seems that the speeds are a skosh bit higher than last time but this fan doesn’t know what difference that makes since they enter the turns at over 200 mph. Brad Keselowski qualified right at 203 mph and that means he was entering the turns at a good clip above 200 and likely easily above 210 mph. No matter how you look at it, that’s FAST. In fact, there isn’t that much separating the top ten or twelve when it comes to qualifying speeds and that means it could be tough to pass all afternoon. Well… at least pass on the track. That will put more pressure on the crews to make really fast pit stops and try to help their driver pass as many competitors as possible in the pits. It will also put an extra bit of pressure on the crew chiefs to come up with a strategy to help get, or keep, their driver out front. At Michigan, that’s a challenge most any time.

Meanwhile, the chances are winding down for those that hope to get a win to lock themselves into the playoffs. There are only three spots left and there are at least five plus vying for those coveted spots. A couple of them absolutely need a win to make it in and the others cannot afford to have a bad day at Michigan or the following three tracks or they might not make it in. If there are no new winners over the next four races, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth would likely make the playoffs with points. If any of the three have a bad day at Michigan or any of the three remaining tracks, it lessens their chances of making the playoffs on points and adds them to the list of needing a win to make it in.

Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer really need a wins to clinch a spot in the playoffs and, if that does happen, it will really mix up the chances for the other three. It doesn’t stop there though. If one of the non-winners for 2017 does win, any one of the remaining spots is less likely to be taken by points and becomes more of a must win situation to get in for those close in points but no wins yet. From this fan’s view, that makes Michigan and the next three races very interesting at the very least when it comes to points or wins whether or not the racing is good, bad or indifferent.

Once again, (and I really hate to keep bringing it up), that brings us to the possibility of Dale Jr. making it into the playoffs in this his final season in regular competition in the Cup Series. He absolutely needs to win to have any chance at all and if he and his team can’t turn it around over the next three or four weeks, well… let’s just say it’s all over for his chance to win a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship. Presently he sits 22nd in points and, barring what this fan would call “miraculous intervention”, he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in a very hot place of making it in on points. I repeat… he absolutely needs to win to get in and he needs it in the worst way.

Earlier I mentioned Joey Logano and he needs a win because his chances are wearing thin also. He is 67 points behind Clint Bowyer and depending on how the flags fall for him in the next four races, he has the least likely chance of making it in on points. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t but I am saying his options are becoming more and more limited. Without a win it is quite likely someone else will get in on points even if there are a couple of new winners over the next four races.

The first practice and the qualifying sessions showed the Fords to be very fast, at least in one lap speeds and that could mean trouble for the rest during the Pure Michigan 400. As of the final practice, at least from this fan’s view, it does look like they may get some competition from the other manufacturers. It is not uncommon, also from this fan’s view, for one manufacturer to show themselves fairly dominant during practice and qualifying only to drop like rocks on race day.

I don’t expect that to happen during the Pure Michigan 400 but I do expect the racing to be pretty competitive and I’m just not so sure a Ford will end up in Victory Lane. Well… unless it is the Ford driven by Clint Bowyer or one of the previous winners in a Ford this season. I’m not ruling anyone or anything out but, I think this could be a very intense, competitive and emotional 400 miles… What do you think?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 13, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Monster Energy Cup Teams At The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Probably the fastest Road Course many drivers ever face in their careers is the road course at Watkins Glen. Whether you think about Formula I or NASCAR Stock Car Racing, The Glen is a very fast road course and it is definitely challenging for all concerned. With the lowered down force NASCAR instituted this season, it is even more of a challenge for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams than ever. Yes, that’s right, even more than last year’s visit was.

Once again, NASCAR, in their infinite wisdom has also done something to shorten up the weekend a little and also add a little drama to the racing. Last week at Pocono we saw qualifying and racing taking place on the same day and it will happen again this weekend at The Glen. I’m not sure exactly what to think about that at the moment but I will say it is different. In some ways it does remind of days on the short tracks and how things were run. We showed up, practiced a little and then either ran our races or had time trials. However, this is NASCAR Cup and it takes a little getting used to (at least for me.)

Like I said, I haven’t decided one way or another about it but do lean heavily towards liking it. Sure it is different and it does change things a bit but it is interesting to see how the teams handle it. From my view, the only real difference is that they don’t have overnight to think about things and make or plan changes. Also from my view, that just makes it more interesting when the race starts and we really find out who did the best job in preparing for the race. I’m not sure what many of you think about it but you have to say it is, at the very least, interesting.

With the opportunities winding down for those that would like to win to get in to the playoffs, the pressure is on for them to win. Some of those that need to win are coming to a crossroads unless they do win and for some of them, a win is the only thing that might get them in.

One of those that likely needs to win or he won’t get in is Dale Jr. Adding to the speculation that he might not win this one is that, at the time of this writing, during practice he was not at all happy with the way his car was handling. In fact, the Hendrick Chevys didn’t look that good at all. Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne all just didn’t appear to have the speed needed to compete up front but that could all change by the time they qualify before the race tomorrow. Of the four HMS drivers, a win would really only help Jr. or Chase since Johnson and Kahne are already in. Still, this fan doesn’t think they really want to run and finish in the middle to back of the pack. That just doesn’t sound like something Hendrick Motor Sports would be happy with at all.

Another one that would really like to have a win is Matt Kenseth. He would actually kill two birds with one stone if he did win. The first would be that he pretty much locks himself into the playoffs and the second is it would be his first win at The Glen and it is one place he would like to claim a victory at. Since he is leaving JGR at the end of this season, it would be a shame for him to go and not at least make it into the playoffs at the end of the season racing for JGR. (Well, at least that’s the way some look at it…)

Joey Logano is another one that needs a win and, although he has five more chances before time runs out for him to take a win, this week and next are likely his best chances. That’s not to say he couldn’t win at the other three tracks coming up, it’s just this fan’s view his better chances are at The Glen and Michigan. Now I’m not saying he won’t find a way to get into the playoffs but I am saying he’s got his work cut out for himself.

I don’t know, but I would kind of like to see Jamie McMurray make it into the playoffs and a win in the next five races would definitely put him there. Why not a win at The Glen? He is capable and it would be interesting to see it happen.

There are several others that could win at The Glen and one of them is Clint Bowyer. He is probably a dark horse to do so but a win could surely be a boost to him and his team. Michael McDowell has been performing better more consistently and could really end up in Victory Lane when it is done. The problem with all of this conjecture on my part is that it is just that – conjecture and though I am good at it, there are a number of drivers that could take the win at The Glen and although I have a few I’d like to see win, I’m just not sure which of them really will…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 5, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated