The Final Four Race For It All At Homestead from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The run for the 2019 MENCS Championship ends at Homestead this Sunday. If you ask the four drivers of the final four, they will tell you it has been a long, hard road but the end is in sight. As a fan, I can’t help but think the pressure is on whether they outwardly show it or not. One thing I know is it will be all business when the time comes to climb into the car and buckle in for the race to claim the 2019 Championship.

When it comes to the finale in NASCAR, it is different in several ways. For one, it is two races in one. First, it is a race to win the Ford Ecoboost 400. Second, it is a race between the four drivers in the Championship Four. The winner of the race can be someone other than those in the Championship four but the 2019 Championship will be claimed by the one of the final four that finishes ahead of the other three. Usually, the winner of both is one of the Championship Four.

During the race, the focus will mostly be on the Championship Four even if another competitor outside the four is leading and running away with the victory. Even though that sounds a bit unusual, hardly anyone really cares who wins unless it is one of those four competing for the Championship and, if it happens that someone outside the four wins, there will be two celebrations for the victors.

Well, don’t let that confuse you. The winner of the race often comes from those in the Championship Four and, more often than not, it takes a win to claim the Championship.

Even though there is a lot of hype surrounding this race, it will be serious business for the four drivers, crew chiefs and teams. Since weather cancelled qualifying, the Championship Four start in the first two rows and that may be a precursor to the way the race will go. Since these four drivers and teams start out front, it may mean things could get a little hairy from the get-go but, since they are considered to be the strongest teams going in, it just may be a battle between the four of them all through the 400 miles.

There are those that think Denny Hamlin has the advantage and momentum. That could be but I’m not so sure, at least from my view. You see, he has had a really good year but he also has a history of beating himself. It could be he has learned not to press until it is important to do so and I do believe he is older and wiser. His chances are good for taking the win and the Championship but I’m not willing to name him the victor yet.

One reason I’m not willing to name Denny as the favorite is Martin Truex Jr. He and his crew chief, Cole Pearn, have managed to shine, especially when it has counted in the recent past. After all, just look at the number of wins they have. Truex has seven and Denny has six this season. When all is said and done, the whole 400 miles could be between these two.

That brings me to Kyle Bush. Of the three JGR teams, he has been the one struggling in the latter part of the season. Now, I’m not saying struggling in the sense he hasn’t or won’t be a factor. I’m just saying he has struggled and it could go either way for him in the Ford Ecoboost 400. From my view, he may have turned the corner at just the right time. I guess that remains to be seen.

When it comes to Kevin Harvick, I think it he has the biggest struggle since it is one SHR team against three JGR teams. A few weeks ago, his number four team hit on something and it remains to be seen if it carries through to this Championship race at Homestead. In observing some of the goings on this week leading up to the race, He has looked confident and calm. From my view, he is probably the most mentally tough and confident of the four competitors. Unless something really out of the ordinary happens during the race like an equipment failure or getting involved in someone else’s accident, I do think he is up to the challenge of the JGR team cars he faces.

So, I’ll make this short and to the point. No matter how it actually goes, I think Kevin Harvick is going to end up taking his second MENCS Championship over the other three from JGR. If he does, just remember I told you he was going to do it. If he doesn’t then you can tell me how wrong I was and we’ll all move on to next year with hopes for more exciting racing and the hope the Chevys finally become competitive again…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 16, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Making It Or Breaking It At Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There’s just no two ways about it. Four drivers won’t make it to Homestead in the final four competing for the MENCS Championship for 2019. Two are already qualified for the finale and we already know what their names are. It is the other two names that remain in limbo until this one race at Phoenix is finished and in the books. When that happens, we will either have recognized our expected choices as winners or also rans or be completely amazed at how wrong we could be.

I don’t know about you, but it is another time in this year’s playoffs where anything could happen this weekend. I mean, if you just look at what has happened to several of the drivers over last few races, you’ll see overwhelming evidence that no one except Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are guaranteed a spot at Homestead. No matter what some say about Kyle Bush or Joey Logano and them moving on to the Championship race, there is still no guarantee.

Speaking of Kyle Bush, does anyone think he hasn’t been struggling at least slightly for a while now. Oh sure, he’s still “sort of” maintained his points position except for being passed by the two winners over the last two weeks. If you listen to him, the race Sunday is between him and Logano when it comes to moving on to the final four. He makes no mention of the other drivers below the cut line and it appears he expects to win at Phoenix. That could very well be the way it turns out.

Joey Logano, on the other hand, doesn’t sound all that confident even though he had a very good week last weekend. Listening to him in interviews over this last week he has had a guarded optimism about them. He doesn’t seem to be overly confident of how he will finish but does have at least a little “hope” in his voice. From this fan’s view, I think he is concerned about another disaster striking and taking him out of contention all together.

Personally, I don’t know what to think of these two. I know they don’t really care what I think and you probably don’t either but I have to say this. I’m am not totally convinced that either one, or both, of them will move on to the final four.

Why would I say such a thing? Well… just look at what has happened to Chase Elliott over the last few weeks. He has gone from a favored one to move on to one that has to win to make it to Homestead as a one of the four competing for the Championship. There was the equipment failures of two blown engines and a broken axle, (quite unusual for a Hendrick racing team.) Last week he just made a driver error that put him way out of touch with the cut line and made this weekend a must win to get in.

Denny Hamlin looked to be a lock for the final four and he has managed to drop below the cutline. That was completely unexpected by most and now he probably needs to win if he expects to make it to the final four. We all know he is quite capable but there is still the question of, will he? Could something happen to put him completely out of the running? Could he score a lot of points in the stages and still be outpointed by Bush and Logano? These are all questions that won’t be answered until the race is run and done.

And then there’s Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. Both not totally out but by no means in. Both still have a chance to make it to Homestead and in the hunt but a lot of positive things have to happen for them. They both have to run up front and score lot of points while the ones above them have to have really bad races and lose a lot of points. In reality, they both need to win but you and I both know only one of them can so guess what that means? Yeah, that’s right; both of them can’t win so there just about has to be a complete and total failure (in other words, finishing last) for Kyle Bush and Joey Logano. Oh, and by the way, Denny Hamlin would have to be right there with them in those last places.

Does it sound like this weekend is going to be full of excitement, drama and emotion? Does it also sound like the pressure is on all six of those not qualified for the final four? I would say a very resounding, YES! to all of those questions, how about you?

I expect this to be one of the most aggressive and action-packed races of the year and especially in these 2019 playoffs. As I said at the opening of this, four drivers and teams won’t make it to the final four. Two are in and six want to make it in. Of the six wanting to make it in, only two will and which two remains to be seen. A winner from below the cut line changes everything and, since troubles have been abundant for many of the contenders, a bad day by any one or more of the six can do the same.

I don’t know what you think, but this fan thinks this is going to be a race to remember for a long time…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 9, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Pressure Is On At Texas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

A quick look at the round of eight shows there are four above the cut line and four below. One is already in the Championship race at Homestead and seven are trying to make it in. Unfortunately, only three of those seven will be in Homestead with a chance to go for the 2019 MENCS Championship and that means the pressure is on at Texas this weekend.

For Martin Truex Jr. there is absolutely no pressure for him or his crew chief, Cole Pearn. They are already locked into the Championship race since winning Martinsville last weekend. It doesn’t matter whether they perform well or not at Texas (or Phoenix for that matter) because it won’t make a lick of difference. Of course we know they won’t just idle around the next two races, waiting to compete at Homestead. It just doesn’t matter how they perform until they get there.

When it comes to Denny Hamlin, well, it depends on how his races go the next two weeks. At the moment he looks to be fairly safe and likely to move on to the final four. IF however, the troubles come as they have for many in the playoffs, his fortunes could change by the time it comes to being in the final four. Now I’m not saying he won’t make it in and I’m not saying he will have a lot of trouble but, he could and with the way points go, he could have a couple of bad races over the next two weekends and not make it. It would be shocking if he didn’t but it could happen.

Kyle Bush on the other hand hasn’t looked like the Kyle Bush we’ve all come to expect. He has struggled even though his struggles haven’t caused him to fall below the cut line yet. If they continue or get worse, he could miss it and, even though that would be unexpected, it could very well happen.

Joey Logano is struggling even as his teammate Brad Keselowski did in the earlier round. Well, at least he is from this fan’s view. He hasn’t had all that good of races over the last several and has only managed to squeak by and stay in the hunt for the Championship. There are some that may say he is doing what it takes to make it through but I just don’t see it that way. He is one of two in the top four at the moment that I’m just not sure will move on. He could but his place is conditional at the present. If things don’t go better for him, well, that could mean looking to next year for another try at a championship.

Of the four below the cut line, there three that could make it in on points but that would mean three of the four already above the cut would have to have bad weeks while the three below have really good weeks.

From this fan’s view, Kevin Harvick is the most obvious to make a move into the top four simply because he has performed well at both Texas and Phoenix in the past. He could move by scoring stage points and finishing near the front in this one at Texas or even next weekend at Phoenix. He could also stay mired right where he is below the cut line and have to wait until next season to go for another championship. Looking at his performance lately, I’m not sure which way it will go.

When it comes to Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson, well, it’s tough to say. Both of them could win or both of them could score a lot of stage points along with a top five finish at Texas. Neither one is stuck where they are and neither one is a definite to move on without a win. The rub is that either of them could win and that would put them right in the mix at Homestead. I don’t know how you feel about it but from my view, it could go either way.

No matter how you look at it, Chase Elliott is under the most pressure to perform at the top of his game this weekend and if he doesn’t win, next weekend becomes the same again. Of all the playoff drivers and teams, his “luck” has been the worst over the last couple of weeks and he can’t afford another engine failure, broken rear end or broken axle or what ever took him out of contention last weekend. He has to win stage points and lots of them or he has to win, there are no two ways about it. If he doesn’t win, whether or not he advances depends on the performance of the other seven not yet in. Either way, his work is cut out for him and his team. Honestly, I think they’re up to the task but they can’t afford more unexpected equipment failures.

The next two weekends are going to be pressure packed and to this fan there is no doubt about that. there are a number of drivers capable of winning at Texas and some aren’t even in the playoffs. If that happens, well, let’s just say it could get VERY interesting…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 2, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

All Out Going For It At Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There’s no doubt the emotions will rise to a peak at Martinsville on Sunday afternoon. There’s just no way they can’t. We’re talking about short track racing on a half mile oval with a lot on the line for eight drivers and teams as well as all the rest that want to win the coveted Grandfather Clock. Just which of the drivers might come out on top remains to be seen but from this fan’s view, it should prove to be a very interesting afternoon.

In my opinion, I expect just about the whole field to be “all out going for it” when it comes to competing for the win, but eight of them are more interested than the rest simply because a win by one of them means moving on to Homestead to the final four.

I know you’ve heard all of the talk about which ones have already been chosen to be in the final four, but I’m just not as sure as some about that. With the way things have gone so far in the playoffs, I’m still one of those that believes anything can happen. When I look at the round of eight, I only see one driver that hasn’t really struggled much at all. Of course that would be Denny Hamlin.

I admit, he has been much more confident and less bothered by things that used to bring about his demise in previous years. If his performance continues as it has lately, I think he might be the only one of the eight to make it to the final four. Of course that could change over the next three weeks, but I don’t see it unless his course totally reverses itself.

The next one on my list of “probable’s” to make it to the final four is Martin Truex Jr. It is hard to argue with his consistency lately and it is hard to argue with his performance on the tracks over the next three weeks. He almost won Martinsville last year at this time (Joey Logano put an end to that) and he is as determined as ever to go all out for it again this year. And don’t depend on him letting Logano or anyone else repeat what happened last year if the opportunity arises. He is more likely to be the one dishing it out this time.

After those two, (and I’m really not so sure both of them will move on), is where it really gets interesting, at least in my mind. What I’m saying is, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and, yes, even Kyle Bush could end up as “no shows” in the final four at Homestead.

(I know, you think I left someone out, don’t you? Believe me, I haven’t forgotten Chase Elliott and I will talk about him a little later.)

The five I mentioned above have had their ups and downs over the last several weeks and unfortunately, I’m not so sure any of them will make it to the final four unless they win one of the next three races. They just haven’t shown themselves to be that much better than those they are competing against. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying they won’t make it. I’m just saying they and their teams have to be just about flawless over the next three races, they have to get as many points as they can and they need to finish near the front. Two of them are only in the round of eight because they won a race in the round of twelve and that would be Larson and Blaney. One of them, Logano, has struggled to be where he is and, even though Martinsville is one of his better tracks, I see no guarantee he won’t struggle at one or two of the next three tracks. (If he is in front of Martin Truex Jr. as they approach the final lap or two, well, let’s just say “anything can happen.”

Kevin Harvick may not do well at Martinsville but he does tend to perform well at Texas and Phoenix so he could gain a lot of points at the latter two even if he doesn’t win one of them. To me, he and Logano are the two biggest question marks in my mind over the next three races. Both of them could advance to the final four or one or both of them could miss it altogether. I’m just not sure about them at this point but I do know time will reveal it to us over the next three weekends.

When it comes to Kyle Bush, I’m just not sure how he will do. Over the last several races, he has looked good and bad but relatively consistent. He has been known to have good and bad races at Martinsville, as well as the other two that follow. I’m not sure what it is but something just isn’t there for him lately. Of course, that could change on a dime but it is another thing we’ll just have to wait and see on.

Chase Elliott needs to win. That’s just the way it looks from this fan’s view. He doesn’t necessarily have to win at Martinsville, but he needs to win at one of these next three tracks. Starting out in the first practice at Martinsville with a blown engine after only five or six laps isn’t starting off the weekend with a bang. He and his team need to be flawless from this point on if he wants to make it to the final four. After that, well, I guess he could win his first MENCS Championship. What ever the case, over the next three weekends of racing, the eight in the playoffs are going to be “all out going for it” at Martinsville, Texas AND Phoenix and it’s gong to be an intense three weekends…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 26, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Four Gone After Kansas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

When the MENCS teams finish the race at Kansas Speedway this weekend, four will be gone from the competition for the 2019 Championship. The question is, which four won’t be moving on. This is an elimination race and there will only be eight left to move on to the Round of Eight.

Stress levels are high, especially among the six hovering just above or just below the cut line. Talladega was not nice to many last weekend and the Hendrick teams appeared to suffer the most damage. Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron all took a hit in the points standings and all are fighting for the opportunity to move on to the round of eight. Clint Bowyer is the lone non-Hendrick driver below the cut line. He has his work cut out for himself the same as the Hendrick teams if he wants to move on into the round of Eight.

I’m sure all of this you already know since it has been the hot topic ever since the race at Talladega was in the books. As I mentioned above, Talladega was a wreck-fest that took a big toll on the playoff drivers. Of the four below the cut line, William Byron has the greatest task ahead of him, at least from this fan’s view, but I’ll talk more about him and the others a little later.

Even though there are some in the playoffs with little to nothing to worry about going into the Hollywood Casino 400 as Kansas Speedway, two in particular should be concerned. Of course you know that would be Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano. Even though they are twenty and eighteen points to the good, they cannot afford to have a bad day. There is nothing definite about their weekend unless they either win or score a lot of points over the others. Going into the race, the two Penske drivers look to have a fairly good cushion and are expected to move on but, if anything happens to put them finishing way down in the order, they could be gone.

There are six that don’t have much to be concerned about. Well… I guess it is possible that disaster could strike. It is definite that Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney will move on. Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick are very solid also and odds are they don’t need to be concerned about moving on even though Kyle Bush has been struggling lately. If one of the drivers below the cut line wins, well… that could make things a bit more interesting depending on how the others finish.

So… the Kansas Speed way is a slick track and the Cup cars will be running pretty much wide open except when situations dictate they lift or brake. That means it is going to be hard to pass and will likely result in the use of some “chrome bumpers” if drivers decide to hold their lines. If that is the case, it could mean the flare up of tempers. Hopefully, those flareups won’t take out someone in the playoffs or someone trying to stay in them.

William Byron has shown a lot of improvement this season and this fan thinks he has, at least, hope of winning this one. If he does, (which I think is his only hope of moving into the “Round of Eight”), he will join Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson as winners to move on. I’m not saying he will win, I’m just saying he could and it would definitely shake things up if he did. Alex Bowman is in the same boat as far as I’m concerned. He has shown he can pull the proverbial “rabbit out of the hat” and I really wouldn’t put it past him to do it again. Chase Elliott won at Kansas last season and some have picked him as the one to beat in the Hollywood Casino 400. I guess I could go on and on mentioning names of possible winners but I won’t.

Here’s the problem. The Hendrick teams haven’t looked all that strong so far this weekend. Of course I am writing this before qualifying so that could change my mind. Since basically the three Hendrick teams just about need a win to advance or have some disasters strike those above them, they’re going to have to show more speed than they have so far this weekend. I’m not saying they’re up against an impossible task, I’m just saying they can’t make any mistakes and they have to have a lot of things go their way.

No matter how you look at it, there is a lot on the line for many and some look to be up against impossible odds. Their only hope, from this fan’s view, is to win. Unfortunately, only one can win and from my view, there are definitely four that need to…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 19, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Playoff Pressure Is On At Talladega from a NASCAR Fan’s View

After last weekend’s race at the Monster, there are those that would like this one at Talladega to be a little more tame. Joey Logano and Chase Elliott are two of them and it could be said that last weekend was “bad” for the both of them. Because of the problems they had last weekend, the pressure is on them to have a good race at Talladega. Fortunately, both of them are capable of doing so, especially at Talladega. Of course, you already know, they aren’t the only ones that have to have a good race at a track where anything can happen and anyone in the field can win.

From this fan’s view, and considering where they are this weekend, I really don’t think anyone in the standings from sixth to twelfth can afford to have a bad race. The only one that won’t be sweating out the laps all the way to the end is Kyle Larson. With his win last weekend, he is already qualified to move on to the Round of Eight. Though some are safer than others in the remaining top twelve, Talladega can rob a bunch of points from even the highest in the standings, just as the Monster did last weekend.

Joey Logano and William Byron are basically tied at the eighth spot going into Sunday’s race. Both of them need to score a lot of stage points and it wouldn’t hurt if either one of them won. Of course you know which one I would prefer but, of the two, I have no idea which will actually step up to the plate and do it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m going to go for the one in the Chevy. When it comes down to these two, well it’s no contest. I’m going to go with Byron every time. I’m just not a Logano fan but that doesn’t take anything away from his talent or abilities. It just means I’m not a fan. In reality, I’m a Chevy fan over Ford probably because I’m partial to Chevys. I used to race Chevys. I’ve almost always owned a Chevy except once and that was way back in the seventies. (I also admit my wife’s car is a Toyota – but that’s another story.) I just like Chevys.

When my friends and I would talk about racecars and racing back in the day, there were a lot of cliché sayings about Fords. Most of my friends had stock cars but some had drag racing cars. Some of those old clichés are still around and you probably recognize them too. I’ll just mention a few about the Fords. The Chevy guys would say to the Ford guys, “Found On Road Dead” or “Fix Or Repair Daily” to which the Ford guys would offer their comeback of, “First On Race Day.” It was all in good fun. One of my friends had a tricked out drag car and he use to tell me why he had a Chevy over a Ford. Quite simply he said it was because the Chevy was cheap horsepower; they could get more horsepower with less expense and that was a plus.

Oh well, enough of, “back in the day.”

One thing I have to bring up is something that has become more common-place in recent years. It is the whining going on from some of the drivers. Because of his problems last weekend, several were upset with Joey Logano because he raced them hard even though he was twenty plus laps down. It just so happens they are from the JGR camp and they have the most wins this season of any of the other organizations. Two that standout in my mind are Martin Truex Jr and Denny Hamlin. (Remember I’ve talked about Kyle Bush before.) They were griping about Joey and others that were racing them too hard.

It seems that these days, if you or your organization seems to be running better than others, everyone is supposed to just move out of the way so you don’t have to work so hard to pass. From this fan’s view (and I’m not alone in this opinion) I don’t see why they think that way. With the Format the way it is in Cup, every point counts and just one point can make a difference in whether someone can advance to the next round or not. If you don’t believe me, just look at Jimmie Johnson last season at the Roval. He missed moving on by the minutest margin and missed being able to compete for the Championship.

That’s why I think Sunday’s race at Talladega is going to be one of the most intense Super Speedway races in a long time. I don’t think anyone is going to be playing “Mr. nice guy.” I think all of those still in the playoffs and hoping to move on to the next round are going to push the envelope. There is also an element called aggressive driving and I think we will see a lot of that on Sunday afternoon. I hesitate to say they will put themselves in jeopardy in their aggressive maneuverings in the packs but, I do expect there will often be “cautious aggressiveness” exhibited on a regular basis, especially when the end of the stages are near.

I don‘t know how you feel about it but, the winner of this one could be a surprise winner. We’ve got drivers looking for rides next year, drivers looking for wins that haven’t won in while and drivers trying to make it to the Round Of Eight. With all of that going on, I expect at least one Big One and that could be the one that ends somebody’s hopes for this season. Sure, I know there’s another race left in this round after Talladega but, I also know having to win to move on to the next round can be difficult for any of them and every point counts. (Hey wait a minute! Didn’t I already say that?)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 12, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Round Of Twelve Opens At The Monster from a NASCAR Fan’s View

What better place for the round of twelve to open than at the Monster Mile. This weekend the MENCS teams will be running the package with the most downforce and the most horsepower that NASCAR allows this year. The Monster is fast… Very fast!

There isn’t a lot that can be said that hasn’t already been said about the Monster. Everyone already knows pretty much all there is to know about it. The only difference about this weekend compared to the race back in May is that this one is the first race in the round of twelve in the playoffs. The only questions to be answered are whether the results will be different than they were back in the Spring.

From this fan’s view, things could be a lot different. Martin Truex Jr. dominated and won the May race. Way back then, the Toyotas ruled, the Fords were running “good” and the Chevys were still pretty much struggling. This weekend things haven’t changed all that much but the Chevys are looking much more competitive. Chase Elliott won this race last fall and the Chevys have shown up this weekend looking quite a bit more ready to run up front.

After last weekend at The Roval, the Hendrick Chevys are looking to carry their performance level into Sunday’s race and it does appear they have a little bit of momentum going for them. Kyle Larson from the Ganassi camp also looks to have something for the Toyotas and Fords.

Now that I’ve mentioned last weekend, I can’t help but say something about Chase Elliott’s win at The Roval. Yeah, I know you’ve heard just about all you want to about last weekend, but I just have to give my two cents. You already know I’m a big Chevy fan and also a Hendrick MotorSports fan. It also holds true I am a big Chase Elliott fan. After he over-drove the restart right into the barrier at the first turn, I figured he was done. I had no idea he would come back from that setback and win. It was truly an unexpected victory even though the Hendrick Chevys have shown a lot of strength at the Road courses.

I have to say I had pretty much counted Alex Bowman out after his first lap happenings, also. As the laps wound down to the final few, I was as surprised as anyone he would finish second and was coming close to challenging Elliott for the win. It was a really strong performance for the HMS teams as they all finished in the top ten.

Oh well, that’s enough of last week for now…

I’ve already mentioned Kyle Larson and this fan thinks he could take his CGR Chevy to Victory Lane. He’s already shown he has speed this weekend; it just remains to be seen how he runs all the way to the end. Lately, that’s been their problem… getting to the end at, or near, the front.

From this fan’s view, Jimmie Johnson just can’t be counted out as a possible winner on Sunday since already has so many wins at the Monster. Sure, I know it’s been a while since he’s won at the Monster (or at all), but he still knows what it takes to win there. I’m not saying he will but I do think it’s possible. It all depends on whether the Chevys show their speed in the race instead of in practice and qualifying.

Of course, we all know the JGR Toyotas have to be considered as having a really good day at the Monster; In particular, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin. In the Spring, Martin Truex Jr dominated and won and he has been showing a lot of strength over the last several races. He didn’t perform so well at the Roval but he just can’t be ruled out as having the same kind of day he had in the Spring. I don’t know that he will dominate as he did but I am sure he will be someone to watch on Sunday.

A quick look at those that could possibly win on Sunday shows just about any of the ones still in the playoffs could. They’re not the only ones, though. There are several not in, but still running to win, that could. It is very hard to pick just one. It could be Chase Elliott, since he won last year. It could be Alex Bowman if he runs like he did last week (and as long as Bubba doesn’t decide to help him not make a turn as a little payback from the Roval.) It could be Kevin Harvick. We haven’t heard much from him lately but he still runs well. The possibilities are endless for this one.

Say… you don’t think the JGR teams have picked a bad time to go into a little slump, do you? I guess it is a possibility. I mean, they just haven’t looked like they did when they were winning all of those races this season. Well, that is, if we don’t look at Martin Truex Jr and the way he’s been running…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 5, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Four Are Gone When The Roval Is Done from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There is one thing that is certain for the race this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. when this race is done there will be four less drivers and teams competing for the MENCS Championship. Without a doubt that is one of the only definites this fan can see but, which ones won’t move on to the round of twelve is beyond me at the time of this writing. We all know the ones that are locked in to moving on but there are those from about ninth to fifteenth that really need a good finish when the Roval is done. As for Erik Jones in sixteenth, well, he needs to win to be sure he can make it.

The Roval is a unique road course track and just about anything can happen. Honestly, from my view, just about anything we can think of probably will happen before this one is in the books. This is the second time the MENCS teams have visited the Roval and, if you remember last year’s race, a lot of unexpected things happened. I expect the same or even more this time.

The bubble drivers – those from ninth to fifteenth – are only separated by fourteen points and if any of them run into problems their run in the playoffs is through for this 2019 season. You already know the ones in the most precarious situations are, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Bush and Erik Jones because they are already below the cutline. Those that can’t afford any problems (at least from this fan’s view) are William Byron and Aric Almirola since they are only above the cut by two to three points.

Of course, as you already know, William Byron won the pole position and has looked to have speed since they unloaded off the truck, along with his teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson. Bowman sits in thirteenth place in the standings just two points behind Byron which could make for some very interesting drama as the race progresses to its completion.

Chase Elliott is reasonably safe sitting in seventh place with +37 points but he cannot afford to have a bad day and, if he has a DNF, his chances would be done for the playoffs and advancing to the final four. It is worth noting that many have already written off the Chevys making it to the round of eight let alone the final four. From this fan’s view, Chase looked to be struggling a bit in practice and even struggled in qualifying. I’m not ruling him out yet, as far as having another good road course run, but he does have his work cut out for himself.

In observing the Hendrick Chevys so far this weekend, they do look to have the speed and have proved it by three of them starting in the front two rows. My concern is what has plagued them most of the season and that is maintaining that speed all the way to the finish. Practice times and qualifying are one thing but it doesn’t say much about how they will fare on restarts, in traffic and all the way to the finish.

I will say this though; Jimmie Johnson could win this one. That would be a big deal for him if for no other reason than he hasn’t had a win in a long time. If he does win that would make it all the more difficult for Erik Jones to advance to the next round unless he scores a lot of stage points and finishes very near the front.

Although there is a lot going on throughout the playoff contenders, one that has me concerned is Kyle Bush. Don’t know what’s going on with him but he just hasn’t looked all that good recently and hasn’t been handling what “the racing gods” have been handing him lately. It was even obvious during practice that he may not deal with slower cars all that well like in recent races. I’m not saying anything negative but, his aggressiveness could come back to haunt him and take him right out of the hunt for a Championship. The JGR Toyotas are strong but the stress of the playoffs could be the undoing for a couple of them. (Oh, in case you’re wondering, Denny Hamlin is the other one. Not saying things will go wrong. Just saying they could.)

In observing the first practice and qualifying, it certainly appeared to this fan that many were struggling with wheel hop and that could prove to be a disaster for, not only the ones experiencing it, but for those that might get taken out along with them. If it happens to take someone out that needs a good finish, well, we all know what that will mean and that is one thing that will make this race at the Roval a bigger wild card than Talladega. But then, this is a cutoff race and it is at one of the most challenging tracks in the playoffs.

This fan expects there could be more than the usual drama and emotion throughout this one and some of it may play out on the track… Hey, I’m just saying it is going to be intense and You and I both know what that can mean…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 28, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Pressure Is On For Some At Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

For some, the pressure is on to gain a lot of points or win when they take to the track at Richmond Raceway Saturday night. For others, well… they really need to at least be consistent and hope they don’t have the same troubles a few experienced at Vegas last weekend. Of course we all know Martin Truex Jr. could finish dead last at Richmond and not have to worry about moving on to the next round of the playoffs at all.

I don’t know what you think about it but, there is something about those Joe Gibbs Toyotas and I’m not sure we’ve seen all they have to offer yet. I mean, I think they’ve been holding back on some of their performance over the last part of the regular season and saving the best for these playoffs. It seems they have a little bit more speed available than the other teams and that’s not to say they haven’t been strong all year. After all, the JGR teams have won many of the races this season and the only hope for many of the others involved in the playoffs is for their performance to fall off big time.

Of course, I could be wrong and things could turn around as fast as they did for Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Kyle Bush. For some reason Hamlin’s performance dropped off all the sudden and he finished fifteenth even though he was moving up in the order when the change happened. Erik Jones had good speed but ran into equipment problems like a sticking throttle and then a transmission stuck in second gear. But for Martin Truex Jr, well, he was a whole different story.

Yeah, that’s right; He was dropping like a rock through the field and then, after some adjustments, he started making his way to the front and that’s exactly where he ended up. Amazing how that happens. Just a few minor adjustments and, all of the sudden he is better than anyone on the track. Did you ever wonder what it is about his crew chief and what he knows about these packages the others don’t? Well… I have to admit I do and he seems to pull it off more often than not.

Oh, and then there was Kyle Bush and his run-in with the wall in the first laps of the race that put him down two laps. He did recover but I have more to say about him before I’m finished here.

Joey Logano his Penske Ford appeared to be the class of the field until Daniel Suarez forced him into the wall. After that, he really wasn’t competing for the win anymore. He was just going for as many points as he could get.

Speaking of Daniel Suarez; he just doesn’t seem to want to let anyone hold him back or pass him. I admit he is aggressive but I think his aggressiveness is going to come back to haunt him in the near and distant future. It appears to this fan he is still driving like he has a chance to be in the playoffs and win the championship. Of course, we all know “that just ain’t gonna happen.” He may be racing to keep his job or improve his end of the season standings but, he just can’t do better than being out of the playoffs allow.

Now, getting back to Kyle Bush (and this is just this fan’s opinion and will likely make some a little angry.) I do admit he is a very talented driver and is definitely going to one day be in the hall of fame. The problem is he is only happy when he wins and he often blames his lack of performance on the package NASCAR mandates the Cup teams to use. This year he has often talked of how hard it is to pass, (because of the mandated package), how hard it is to get the balance right, (because of the mandated package), how he could have run better, (also because of the mandated package.)

Last weekend at Vegas he did come up with a new one though, at least different from blaming the mandated package. This time he blamed slower cars and unproven drivers, insinuating they shouldn’t even be on the track. Did he forget that he drove himself into the wall and put himself down two laps (which he made up through strategy calls?) Either through miscommunication or bad info from the spotters he ran into the back of a slower car and went from about third place to finishing nineteenth.

I understand his frustration but I also see his history repeating itself. I don’t know; it could have to do with him being concerned of not being able to make it to the Championship round in nine weeks if his performance doesn’t improve. It could be for a number of reasons, I guess. All I know is that, in this fan’s opinion, hardly anything, including bad finishes, is his fault. He seems to for get that others, including his teammates, are constantly doing what he complains is hard to do with this package and they have had to deal with slower cars and less proven drivers the same as him. I mean, come on. There has to be a time when even a talented driver like him has to come to grips with the fact he isn’t without fault, accept his shortcomings, work to improve them and move on to even more accomplishments.

For the others at or near the cut line, the pressure is on to get points or win if they want to stay in the playoffs. The Roval is coming next weekend and, depending on how things turn out for them at Richmond, next weekend can be even more pressure packed…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 21, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Playoffs Begin At Vegas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well, it’s that time again. Yeah, it’s time for the 2019 MENCS playoffs to begin and what better place is there than Vegas. I mean, it’s time for the sixteen drivers and teams competing for the Championship to start showing all their cards. No more playing around and experimenting; the time has come to go all in. The next nine races are all that matter as they try to make it into the final four and compete for the coveted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November, just ten short weeks away.

A lot of the talking heads have already chosen which four will be in the final four, but I’m not so sure I agree with them. Well… at least not yet. One of the interesting things about this playoff format is that there is no guarantee the ones on top, now, will make it to the final four. Just as some of the ones at the bottom of the standings had weeks of struggle before they sealed their spots in the playoffs, the same can happen to those that are considered to be the “most likely” ones to advance all the way to the final four.

I do admit the favorites, the ones on top right now, have managed a lot of wins amongst themselves and they do appear to have the advantage going into this first race. All of that can change immediately after this one is in the books. After all, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer are great examples of what can happen after three races. They both got in by the skin of their teeth and, had they not performed as they did, neither of them would be in the mix at all.

Ryan Newman was constantly pressing to finish as high as possible in the last several races just to get into the top sixteen. His was no easy task and he fought and clawed his way in. Clint Bowyer was solidly in the top sixteen and ran into a string of bad finishes that almost negated his chances to even be in the playoffs. Both of these drivers didn’t lock themselves in until the race last weekend at Indy and both of them had to sweat it out to the very end.

Unfortunately, the drivers presently in the top spots, that locked themselves in early on in the season, could face the same struggles as Bowyer did. They have acquired a lot of playoff points and look to be obvious choices because they have multiple wins and show up almost every race weekend with fast race cars.

Although I do agree with the old saying the cream always rises to the top, I’m not willing to admit right off that their performance will continue to pull them through. In racing, anything can happen and bad racing luck can happen even to the best of them.

The names this fan keeps hearing mentioned as being the final four are, Kyle Bush, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. I realize that’s five but Kevin Harvick seems to be peaking at the right time and it’s a toss-up, according to many, which one is the more likely choice between the two, namely Harvick and Truex Jr. After all, these are the ones most often mentioned as the ones most likely to be in the final four even before the first race in the playoffs has seen its first lap.

If you don’t think what I am saying here can happen to any of them, just take a look at Jimmie Johnson. Earlier in the summer, it looked as though he was going to be in the playoffs by points, if not by having a win. But then the bottom fell out and he dropped a bunch of spots just like Clint Bowyer. Just as Jimmie Johnson fell out of contention completely over several weeks, the exact same thing can happen to any of the top sixteen in this first round, and in particular to the ones “expected” to move on. I realize this may sound pretty far fetched but don’t think bad luck can’t be a deciding factor in which of the drivers and teams move on. Engine failures, tire failures and any number of things can, and often do, go wrong. It doesn’t even have to be the fault of the ones taken out by someone else’s problem but, it can happen and there isn’t anything they can do about it if it does.

Now look… I’m not saying what happened to Jimmie Johnson is likely to happen to one of the top seeded drivers. What I am saying is, although a lot of the #48’s problems were brought on by their own miscues, there were also things they had absolutely no control over that cost them good point days. Those days cost them dearly and that is exactly the type stuff that could happen to the others…

Just before I close, I have to give my opinion of all the hype surrounding Jimmie Johnson’s missing the playoffs for the first time in his career. It’s my opinion many of the media guys (and gals) are making too big a deal out of it. NASCAR isn’t going to fold just because seven-time Cup Champ, Jimmie Johnson didn’t make the playoffs. It also doesn’t mean he is through and should retire. It just means he had a bad season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won one or two of these last ten races and, though it won’t get him a Championship this year, it just might mean everyone should look out for him next season. I mean, now there’s no pressure and every bit of progress they make now can carry over to next year. Hey, just sayin’…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 14, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated