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

Monster Energy Cup Teams Return to Pocono from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Well, the Monster Energy Cup teams return to Pocono and not a whole lot is different for them. Oh it is still the Tricky Triangle and it is still a challenge for all of the teams simply because of the way it is designed but not much else changes. They still say it only has three turns, I say it has six. They say there is no turn four, I say there is. I know it doesn’t matter at all what I think and no matter how much I talk about the way they count the turns, still nothing much changes.

I do admit the Tricky Triangle lives up to its name because it is just that – Tricky! It is a definite challenge for the teams simply because the turns are all different and it requires the crew chief and the driver to compromise. No matter how much he would like to, the crew chief will never make the driver happy in all three of the turns and the driver will never get the crew chief to give him (or her for that matter) what he or she wants in all three turns. It’s just one of those tracks that a driver will have to make do with what he has been given and the crew chief will have to make sure to keep his driver calm and convinced it is as good as it’s going to get.

By now, I’m sure you all know that everything I just said is just my opinion and definitely not the opinion of the driver and crew chief. I am also sure you know that the driver will never be happy with what he’s got and crew chief will always be trying to convince him he has exactly what he asked for and needs. It will be a challenge for all concerned throughout the afternoon.

There is already a lot going on in the standings and there are still several in the top sixteen without a win. Kyle Bush needs a win almost as badly as Dale Jr. wants one and both of them would pretty much be in the playoffs if they both get a win. Of course, we all know they can’t both win the same race but either one of them could win this one at Pocono.

Of the two, Kyle has had the most opportunities to win a Cup race in the 2017 season and has had every one of them slip away from him, often at, or near the end of the races. This fan has watched in disbelief as every one of them has slipped away from him through many different circumstances. I will say this though, considering the Kyle Bush in past years, he is handling these setbacks relatively well. Look, I know he isn’t perfect and he does react quite humanly at times but he has grown and matured and handles things much better than he used to; it is good to see. If there aren’t four more winners over the next six races, Kyle should be in on points, otherwise he likely won’t make it.

Dale Jr. absolutely needs a win because he just isn’t close to making it in on points. He is another one of those that has looked like he was going to have good finishes or maybe even a win and has watched them slip away for one reason or another. At times, it has almost been humorous to watch. I don’t mean any disrespect and I definitely don’t mean that to sound like it is funny. It is just that he has had the strangest things happen, like being taken out by his team mate, Jimmie Johnson, to missing a shift and blowing his engine not just in the race, but in practice the same weekend. It has definitely been something to see.

Clint Bowyer has kind of had the same racing luck as Jr. Even when he has been running second, he has either run out of laps or has had some of the strangest accidents costing him a possible victory.

Time is also running out for Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Chase Elliott. Jamie has been running consistently all season but just hasn’t taken a victory yet. Matt and Chase have had similar seasons as well.

All of these are the ones most often mentioned to be in the playoffs but none of them is a definite. Pocono is a track that could have a totally unexpected winner and that could make all of the difference as the races dwindle down to a precious few. It is also a track that one of the previous winners this season could win and that would take another chance away from those that need to win. The pressure is on those that want to make it in and the tension is beginning to show as their chances become less and less.

Pocono is just the beginning of probably some of the most intense racing of the season. The tracks ahead are of several different types, Watkins Glenn, Michigan and a return to Bristol. Let’s see… a road course, a big, wide, fast 2 miler and a Short Track with high banks and high speed. The next three weeks should prove to be very, very interesting…

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

Monster Energy Cup Teams Take On The Brickyard from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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You can pretty much ask any race fan and they will tell you there is something special about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What really made it special to NASCAR fans was when they started racing at the Speedway and it has been interesting to see Stock Cars make their way around the 2.5 mile oval, reaching speeds of over 200 miles per hour on the straights. Considering the size of the cars and their weight, it is amazing how well they traverse the turns after the high speed runs down the straights. This year’s Brickyard 400 should prove to be as interesting, and probably more so, as any of them so far.

New challenges face the drivers and teams this year since the rules have changed for the cars from last year. They will still be running down the straights and entering turns one and three at, or over, 200 miles per hour but they have a much shorter spoiler and lower down force. For some, that could spell trouble especially when they enter the turns in a pack or during starts and restarts. In fact, the double-wide starts and restarts have always been exciting at Indy and this fan doesn’t think that has changed at all and could be even more exciting because of the rule changes, especially those affecting the down force.

Another thing that might make the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 a little more interesting on Sunday afternoon would be the stages. The first and second stages end at lap 50 and lap 100 respectively and the final stage ends at lap 160. Well… that is if there isn’t overtime and that is a definite possibility. I’m not saying there will be overtime but I do think this one could come down to the strategy for fuel and tires and which of the teams really wants to stretch both.

A few things to remember about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; it is a large track, (2.5 miles), it is a relatively narrow track, it is a fast track and it is essentially a flat track. All of those things considered together add up to exciting and dramatic racing. Another couple of things that might surface would be frustration and impatience which could lead to some emotional outbursts either verbally or with bumpers. I really think the speeds are too high for retaliatory paybacks but one never knows these days.

There are a few drivers that really need a win to possibly clinch a spot in the playoffs and that is adding to the stress and drama each week as we move closer to them. There are five in the top sixteen points places that have no wins yet this season. That makes every week a little more stressful for them as the races wind down to the playoffs. Even though they may be good in points, they are vulnerable to someone that is a new winner for the 2017 season. Wins pretty much assure one to be in the playoffs at least until the top sixteen spots are filled or the time is running out for some to take a win outside of points standings. Like the format or not, it does make things v-e-r-y interesting.

So those that don’t have wins but are in the top sixteen in points are, Kyle Bush, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, and Matt Kenseth. Any one of them could win the Brickyard 400 and any one of them would love to have a lower stress level for the next several weeks if they do. Unfortunately all of them have run good enough and could have won already – they just haven’t.

There are several that already have wins this year and would like to add to their numbers. Some would like to have more stage wins and bonus points to take into the playoffs and some would just like to take their first win at the Brickyard. Winning at Indy isn’t quite the same as winning at Daytona but it is big and those that haven’t won at least one at Indy definitely want to.

Of course all of the drivers want to win, especially at Indy but some just don’t have what it takes, equipment wise, to do so. Others do have what is needed to win and very well could end up in Victory Lane when this one is over. It could even be one whose name isn’t mentioned all that often. Can you imagine what winning the Brickyard 400 could mean to them and their team?

Probably the fan favorite to win (and hopefully qualify for the playoffs) would be Dale Jr. This is his final year in full time competition in Cup and it is his last time to try and win the Championship. His chances of qualifying for the playoffs are winding down and, at the moment, he isn’t in the top sixteen in points either. No matter how you look at it, he NEEDS a win and he is quite capable of winning at Indy. The question is, will he?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 22, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.con m and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Monster Energy Cup Teams Take On Loudon from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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It shouldn’t be like the usual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Loudon, New Hampshire Sunday afternoon – it should be different. The reasons why (at least from this fan’s view) I’ll get to shortly but this one should be a very interesting afternoon at the races for the drivers, teams and fans alike.

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway is basically a flat track which makes for a very interesting entry into the turns from the long, fast straights. In the past it has been basically a one groove race track and a place where it has been hard to pass. NASCAR (in its infinite wisdom) has allowed the track to put down a substance to give more traction on the higher groove and also added a section on the low groove.

As a long time fan, I have mixed emotions about trying to make the racing more interesting to the fans by adding “Sticky Stuff” to the track. Look, I’m all for closer racing and being able to get more traction but there comes a time when one has to question that enough is enough. Why they choose to put the extra grip substance only on certain parts of the track is interesting in itself and I marvel at their creativity. I do realize they are trying to make the three grooves more equal but I do question putting something on the track that will likely go away as the race progresses. Whether or not it will work as they hope remains to be seen and it also remains to be seen if they will change where the substance is applied by the race on Sunday afternoon. After all, they’ve already changed it once since the first practice.

From my view during the practice and qualifying sessions, it appeared that the only thing really accomplished by the addition of the Sticky Stuff was to move most of the drivers up to the other groove or down for that matter. It was also a precarious thing and, if they got out of it, the loss of traction was very obvious, especially if they got out of it on the high side. Also, at least from this fan’s view, they had to manage how they exited the turns so they wouldn’t lose control as they left the turns and entered the straights. Like I said, I have mixed emotions about the addition of the Sticky Stuff but I am willing to save my final assessment until after the race on Sunday afternoon – (or I may forget about the whole issue completely because the racing was so good.)

Be that as it may, the racing at Loudon is always interesting simply because of the character of the track. Since it is basically a flat track (as I mentioned earlier) and is an extremely fast track to boot, passing is not something that can be done with regularity and that means emotions readily surface and are often displayed openly. This will definitely be a race where the emotions and frustrations will become obvious as the race wears on to its finish. It will be obvious by the actions drivers take on the track and by the conversations between the drivers, crew chiefs and spotters. Don’t be surprised if there are some “not-so-nice” things said in both directions in communications between drivers and their teams and with the front bumpers of the cars. It could get quite colorful and there may even be a few “apologies” from the commentators on some of the emotional frustrations verbally expressed on-air. (In other words, there just may be a “whole lotta bleeping” going on.

Once again, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson led the way in practice and in qualifying. Actually, Kyle Larson qualified for the pole but his time was disallowed when his car failed inspection after qualifying. That put Truex Jr. on the pole and moved Jimmie Johnson to the second spot. That’s the second time Larson’s car has failed inspection in two weekends and it is beginning to add up to some pretty hefty penalties aside from having to start in the rear again this weekend. In this fan’s opinion that probably won’t matter all that much since he is very good at moving from the back to the front during a race, sometimes more than once and especially lately.

It still remains to be seen if the JGR Toyotas can finally pull off a win for 2017. What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time they were dominating in their performance and wins and this year it is just the opposite. Not that they haven’t shown up with good speed and not that they haven’t been running with the possibility of taking a win. They just haven’t done so yet and it just wasn’t what this fan expected from them this year. I suppose all of that could change very quickly but it is interesting that a JGR associated Toyota is leading in the points (of course that would be Truex’s Furniture Row Toyota) but the rest of the Toyotas just haven’t been there at the end of the races.

From this fan’s view, it does appear there have been a lot of penalties handed out this year and almost every week lately there have been many cars having to go through inspection multiple times before they could qualify or race. That tells me the crew chiefs are pressing the envelope on every possible thing they can. It also tells me the competition is extremely close. One thing it doesn’t tell me is why it seems just a few cars seem to be really dominating in performance almost every week. One of those is Martin Truex Jr. and he just might take this one from the pole and do it in dominating fashion. Of course, there are those stages we need to take into account and the strategies the crew chiefs come up with to put their guy in front…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 15, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.con m and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take on Kentucky from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Teams take on the Kentucky Speedway Saturday night and it should prove to be a very interesting race. It’s another Saturday night under the lights and for this fan, there’s just nothing like NASCAR’s Saturday night races. It reminds many of us where we used to spend many of our Saturday nights whether we were just fan’s or whether we were drivers sitting in our cars waiting for the green flag to wave as we started our races at our local tracks. Like I’ve said many times before; there’s just something special about Saturday night racing and NASCAR races on a Saturday night are no different.

The Kentucky Speedway is a challenging track and this fan doesn’t think it was by accident. They built it the way they built it for a reason and it is a unique track with its own character. If they had built it the same at both ends it likely wouldn’t have been the challenge that it is. Instead, they made turns one and two different from turns three and four and that’s one of the things that makes it so challenging.

In case you’re not familiar with the Kentucky Speedway, turns one and two have 17 degrees of banking and turns three and four have 14 degrees of banking. To add to the challenge of getting through turns three and four, it is a little downhill from the entry to the exit. The difference between the two drives the crew chiefs and engineers crazy when it comes to setup and frustrates the drivers to no end, looking for the right feel at both ends of the track.

Qualifying was cut short after only two of the three planned rounds but Kyle Bush set a new track record and won the pole for the Quaker State 400 for Saturday night. Not only that but he also qualified first for the Xfinity series race that was delayed for the same weather reasons until Saturday afternoon. That makes for a very busy day for any of the drivers expecting to run in both series races. It all adds up to at least 700 miles they will run if they complete all of the laps in both series races. Hopefully it won’t be a real hot day and night of racing for them but hey, I know they’re in much better shape than most of us fans. I’m sure they’ll know they’ve had a workout when both races are done though…

The speeds are definitely up this year at the Kentucky Speedway and, during qualifying, Chase Elliott was the first to break the old track record and he was at the top of the list for the first round. From this fan’s view, it looks like he might be one to watch when it comes down to the final laps of the Quaker State 400. He is looking for his first win and looking to be qualified for the playoffs – well, at least hopefully be qualified.

If anything can be said or assumed about the Hendrick teams for this weekend, it did appear all of them had good speed and qualified in the top fifteen. That means it could be a Hendrick team celebrating in Victory Lane at the end of the night. Kasey Kahne looked very strong and, if any one of the HMS Chevys need to have a good night it would be him. He has struggled almost all season long and it hasn’t always been his fault. He just needs a few breaks to go his way and he could take the checkered flag and the trophy. I’m not saying he will; I’m just saying he could…

It is definitely coming down to crunch time for the JGR Toyotas and all of them were showing good speed in practice and qualifying. It could be that Kyle Bush wins it from the pole or it could be that one of his teammates ends up in Victory Lane. I just don’t know how it will go for them. They haven’t shown the same strength and domination they did last season by this time and it does seem they have been struggling at least somewhat. All of them, Kyle, Denny, Matt and Daniel, have had good runs but just haven’t been there at the end. Maybe this night will be different for them. Who knows… they may sweep the top four (and wouldn’t that be something…)

I haven’t talked about the Stewart/Haas teams much lately but it seems they might be poised to have another winner soon. It may not be at Kentucky but it could be any of them over the next few weeks. Clint Bowyer has been steady but just hasn’t quite been in first place at the right time. I’m not saying it will but, it could change for him right here at Kentucky.

When it comes down to the final laps, I’m expecting it to be a battle and not really a runaway for just one of them. Of course I could be wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time) but there are a lot of drivers looking to win and needing a win. I expect that to show as the laps wind down and the strategies play out. Who knows… Dale Jr. might be able to actually finish and could easily end up in Victory Lane. But then again, so could several others I haven’t mentioned. Oh well… that’s just the way it is in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racing…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 8, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.con m and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated