Martinsville And Making The 2021 Championship Four

There are a lot of things that have been said about the Martinsville Speedway and everyone has just about worn out the phrases over the past week. In fact, there are a lot of things that are said about Martinsville every time the teams in all three NASCAR series visit the place. We all already know it is what most consider a short track and it is a challenging flat track with tight racing and very little room for passing. I guess I can’t overlook that many consider it as a place for “payback” no matter how long ago there might have been an on-track incident or a continuing long-running memory incident of someone feeling as though they were wronged by another driver someplace along the way.

That’s just the usual talk of a racetrack with so much history of all kinds when it comes to short tracks, well known for the intensity and emotion that surfaces at them. That’s probably why so many love short tracks. It’s the fan’s type of race. Emotions always seem to run high along with rivalries and fans hate to see their favorites run over or wrecked and love it when their driver does take an opportunity to give a little (or a lot of) payback.

You know what I mean, don’t you? Chase somebody down or wait for them and the opportunity to give that someone a shove out of the way or into the wall. There is little likelihood someone will get physically hurt but, there is the likelihood they might have their race or season ruined, at least for that moment in time and, come away a little angry and carry that anger or grudge to the next short track. When it comes to NASCAR, that incident might live on in video for a very long time and be used as an example of just how emotional and intense stock car racing can be.

This weekend at Martinsville will probably be a little more intense and emotional than usual since this is an elimination race and there are seven drivers not qualified to move on to the Cup Championship race at Phoenix next weekend. Some of the seven are in a must-win situation. If things go as they have recently, all of the seven might be in a must-win situation and you can bet that will make for some very dramatic and intense racing, along with a lot of pushing and shoving and moving people out of the way.

Some say the possibilities are very high, Kyle Larson, could finish out the season with five straight wins and walk away with the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship and trophy. Even though he admits he struggles at Martinsville and doesn’t always run well there, I think that is a good possibility also. After all he already has three in a row, twice this season and has won ten Cup races, counting the All-Star race. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him walk away with 12 wins on the season and the 2021 Cup Championship to boot. He’s having a very special year and anything is still possible.

On the other hand, there are still those seven other drivers that want to be a part of the Championship four and they will probably be willing to do just about anything at the Martinsville Speedway to take the win. Martinsville is just that kind of place. It doesn’t seem to matter what the consequences might be, or what driver they make mad along the way. It’s all about winning this weekend and more than just the seven still in the playoffs want to take that clock home for taking the win. (Do the names Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick come to mind?)

I know you’ve heard just about every possibility of what might or will happen in this race. For the last two weeks, we have been inundated with the names of Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin have been offered as the most likely to succeed this weekend at Martinsville. Even though we all know statistics say something about performance, past and present, this fan thinks this is going to be as unpredictable as any we’ve seen. There are just too many possibilities that aren’t explained by the stats. there are just too many that want to win this one and might be willing to do just about anything to do so. Where does that leave the likes of Brad K, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Bush. All of them have a chance to win but, will they?

Even though Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin look to have a good points cushion, there is no guarantee for them to make it to the Championship four. All it takes is for some bad decisions and/or a little bad racing luck to change their whole situation. Of course, everyone on the track will be at the mercy of others’ possible mistakes or fits of anger and retaliation.

In this fan’s opinion and at the time of this writing, no one is guaranteed to move on in the Cup series except Kyle Larson. The rest of them will be fighting it out to the very end and I expect the intensity and emotions to be running very high…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 30, 2021 – 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

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Pressure Is On At Kansas

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Seven of the eight drivers trying to make it to the final four are feeling the pressure to come away from the Kansas Speedway with a lot of points or a win. That other guy… uh, what’s his name again… oh yeah, Kyle Larson, well, he’s not pressured but he wants another win and the rest of them are probably going to have to deal with him being there contending for the win along with them.

Some of the seven not yet in the final four are under more pressure than a couple of the others. Except for Kyle Larson, the points battle for the rest is very tight. The only one with a not-so-comfortable points lead of those seven is Ryan Blaney. He is seventeen points above the cutline and rated second to Larson in the points standings.

From this fan’s view, I don’t think anyone can believe the Gibbs teams will show up and run at Kansas as they did at Texas. Texas was not a good track at all for them although, Kyle Bush did manage to finish in a place where he is eight points above the cutline. Even though he did win the first stage, I’m still not convinced he is going to make it to the final four in Phoenix. This is another one of those times I’m not making a positive statement as to whether he will or won’t; I’m just saying I’m not so sure he will make the cut. There are many that say you can never count him out but, I am one that says you can. Remember, I’m not saying he won’t make it, I’m just saying he might not make it either on points or by winning over the next two races.

Martin Truex Jr. really cannot afford to have another bad race. He is twenty-two points below the cutline and that almost puts him in a must win situation. I haven’t been paying that close of attention to his plight over the last several races but it does appear he is struggling for consistency. I know he is capable of winning at either of these next two tracks so I’m not counting him out just yet. His fate lay in the hands of him and his crew chief and a lot of things will have to go right for him to move on from where he is to the final four. Impossible is not really a word we should apply to his circumstances but, he does have a long way to go.

From this fan’s view, Joey Logano is probably one of the least likely to advance to the final four. His blown engine last weekend did not help him at all and put him at the bottom of the list. Like most other fans, I believe he is in a must win situation either here at Kansas or, if he fails here, a win at Martinsville becomes a necessity. Being forty-three points below the cutline is might tough to make up unless everyone has really bad days or he takes that win he needs to jump the cutline. Still, he runs well at both tracks so, he could pull it off. If he does, in my opinion it could shift the momentum to him at least somewhat for that final race at Phoenix.

Brad Keselowski has his work cut out for himself if he wants to be a contender for the 2021 Championship. He is fifteen points below the cutline and has seemed to find his way near the front recently but, I’m just not so sure he will be able to move on from here. This season is his last chance to get another Championship while driving for Roger Penske but, from this fan’s view, he really needs to win one race over the next two races. We all know he is capable but the question is, will he? I’m just not so sure it will happen for him. From my view, it’s just been that kind of year for him.

Chase Elliott is just below the cutline just eight points behind Kyle Bush. We all know he is under the gun to have a good points day and possibly take the win. Of the seven drivers not yet in or completely out of moving on, Chase is the one that probably wants this race as badly as anyone. I really don’t think he wants to go to Martinsville having to win but, he has done it before. Last year’s Cup Champion is in a good spot to move on but a lot of things have to go his way. Even though he is still in it, he has struggled in several ways over the last several races and he cannot afford to have a bad day at Kansas.

Let’s face it. Kansas is a challenging racetrack. They can run high and they can run low including all the way down to the apron. They can also run three wide if they want. Not everyone will want to but it can be done. The pressure to run up front or win is extreme for the seven not yet locked into moving on to the final four. From this fan’s view, this is going to be one of the most aggressive, emotional and intense races of the Round of Eight and I don’t really think anyone is going to hold back, including Kyle Larson.

One thing does come to mind that could make a big difference, though. There are several that could take the win that are not in contention for making the final four. They’re hungry for a win and they’re not going to hold anything back either…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 23, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Texas Starts The Round Of Eight

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The thing on everyone’s mind is wondering whether or not Denny Hamlin will win the first race of the Round of Eight as he has in the last two rounds. I’m thinking that may be a possibility but, I’m not willing to jump on that wagon at the moment. Both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson start on the front row and part of the Round of Eight right behind them. All of the remaining playoff drivers are starting in the top eight. Texas stats say a lot about some of the drivers and their ability to get around the mile and half oval at Texas. Without going into great detail right up front, there are a few other things to talk about first.

The feud between Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott seemed to continue last week at the Roval. When I say “seemed” I really mean “did” continue. There was no doubt Harvick meant to put Elliott out and possibly rob him of a chance to win another race at the Roval but I’m not so sure he meant it to be as severe as it was.

I find it interesting that both Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott had problems that could have prevented their continuing in the playoffs and both of their teams stepped up to keep them in the hunt. Of course, we already know Larson ended up winning the Roval and Elliott managed a twelfth-place finish with a highly damaged racecar. Harvick, however, ended up over-driving himself into the wall, ending his race for the day and his chance to move on in the playoffs.

I thought it was hilarious that Chase was catching up to him and we don’t really know what he might have done if he had but, Harvick put himself out of contention with no help from Chase. I suppose it is possible he thought something might happen when he did catch up but, I guess we’ll never know if Chase would have made good on his threat made in the heat of the moment.

Getting back to the race this weekend in Texas, there are several drivers besides Hamlin and Larson that could pull off the victory on Sunday afternoon. In particular, any of the Penske drivers could win this one. Whether you talk about Keselowski, Logano or Blaney, the Penske Fords have shown improvement over the last several weeks but they haven’t sealed the deal at the end of a race lately. Well, all three of them have won at least one race this season but, they have struggled. If I was going to pick any one of the three to win, I think it would probably have to be Ryan Blaney. Of the three, he has been the most consistent lately. I won’t completely rule out Keselowski or Logano from winning but there is a lot on the line and, if one of them does win any of the three races coming up, they will be in the final four. That is the motivation for the Penske drivers. If they win, they’re in the final four. If they don’t, well, they just may not make the cut, unless, they can point their way in.

Now, I guess you’re asking if I think one of the Penske drivers will be in the final four. Honestly, I do not. Well, except for the possibility of Ryan Blaney doing so. Of the three he is the one I think could make a showing for the Fords.

Next is the Joe Gibbs teams of Truex Jr. and Kyle Bush. Either one or both of these guys could make the final four. I’m not saying they will and I’m not saying they won’t. I’m just saying their chances are very good but, it is going to depend on how they do on their stronger tracks of which Texas is one. Another thing to consider is the 550 package NASCAR is having them run. It is one of the stronger packages for the Toyotas and that could shift the advantage to the Gibbs teams.

From this fan’s view, Chase Elliott is the unknown factor in the final results at Texas. His performance has been strong but it seems something always comes up to keep him from finishing up front. His run ins with Harvick have definitely hurt his situation and it remains to be seen if NASCAR’s talk with the two will make any difference in their feud, rivalry or what ever you want to call it. It has made for some added intensity in the races and, of course, the talking heads in usual fashion can’t leave it alone. Personally, I hope they have decided to leave it in the rear view and both can get back to racing for the win rather than revenge.

Still, I think Chase is a dark horse as the possible winner of this one. He, along with the other seven in the Round of Eight, is motivated by needing to perform and do everything possible to make the final four. These next three races are going to be filled with pressure and intensity, especially for those still in the playoffs and I don’t think any of them want to just run near the front. This is a 500 mile race and more than anything, I believe it’s all about winning. At the very worst, they all want to run at or near the front and win any and every stage point they can. The problem is, there are a bunch of drivers that want to walk away with a win and one of them is Kevin Harvick. I believe he is motivated to get his first win of the 2021 Season and make up for his costly mistake at the Roval…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 17, 2021 – 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

Who Will Make The Cut After The Roval

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well… It’s that time again. You know, that time when four drivers will be eliminated from moving on to the Round of Eight. Yeah, you know the Roval is an elimination race and the pressure is on more than just the four that are already below the cutline. Denny Hamlin is the only one, at the moment, that really has very little to pressure him but, the rest of the twelve may have to do more than worry. With the points as close as they are, having a bad race at the Roval just about guarantees a driver will feel the pressure to perform from the first to the last lap. With all that going on, it is just about a guarantee that anything can and probably will happen, especially the unexpected.

When I look at the Roval, I think of how the playoffs have not been good for Kyle Larson. After having a strong start and finish to the regular season, it seems to this fan the old nemesis called “Racing Luck” has turned its heavy hand against the regular season champ. Even though he has had a fast racecar, things have happened to him that haven’t always been his fault. At one time, he was the crowd favorite to be the one all the others would be facing off with in the Final four for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship. He had plenty of stage points and five wins going into the playoffs and it appeared hardly anyone could touch him. Now, he is one point ahead of Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin has been outperforming the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports number five.

Without going into any in depth study of the details in comparing Denny Hamlin’s and Kyle Larson’s 2021 seasons, from my view it appears the roles have kinda reversed between the two. Early in the season, Denny Hamlin was probably one of the top performers and yet he went the whole regular season without a win. He was showing up with a fast racecar, the leading in points and it appeared he was going to not only be regular season champ but possibly the 2021 Cup Champ. It seemed no matter how well he ran, something always happened to keep him from Victory Lane. Then Kyle Larson began to take control of the season and had multiple wins, closed the points gap and ended up as the regular season champ, beating out Denny at the end of the regular season.

Now that the playoffs have started, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin show up to the races and often are considered to be the ones to beat. The difference being, Denny has won the opening race of the Round of Sixteen and the Round of Twelve and definitely will be moving on to the Round of Eight while Kyle seems to be struggling, has watched his huge points lead diminish and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, could miss moving on to the Round of Eight. Of course, that would be difficult indeed but, a bad day at the Roval could keep the top performer of the season from making it to the next round and possibly even the Final Four. As shocking as that may sound, it has to be considered judging from the happenings of the last two weeks. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he is in a must win situation, but he does have to have a solid day and good finish.

When it comes to those that are in a must-win situation to advance, both William Byron and Alex Bowman fill all the boxes. Since only one of them can win, one of them is definitely not going to make it to the next round. Although I realize my opinion doesn’t matter all that much, I don’t think either of them are going to make the Round of Eight.
From this fan’s view, Christopher Bell would definitely be a long shot, dark horse to win. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t win, I’m just saying he is not at the top of my list as possible winners this weekend at the Roval.

The real place of contention is between three drivers namely, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush and Chase Elliott. Since Kyle and Chase are tied at the moment and Harvick trails by nine points, just about anything can happen if any one or all three have problems and a bad finish. With his record on Road Courses, Chase is the likely choice to stay above the cutline in my book but, others are good road racers, too, and that might affect the possibility of all three of these drivers’ chances of moving on.

Unfortunately, with the way things stand right now, I believe this will be one of the most intense, pressure packed and emotionally charged races of the season and definitely what the playoffs are all about. There is no room for mistakes by any of the teams or drivers, especially those on the bubble. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Denny Hamlin has it made and probably won’t feel any pressure except the pressure he puts on himself to win at the Roval on Sunday afternoon. As for the rest of them…they have to be aggressive, they have to be tough should trying circumstances arise and, obviously, they have to run to win. If that doesn’t make for an afternoon of intense racing drama, I don’t know what will…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 9, 2021 – 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 Pressure Is On At Talladega

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

There is always one thing predictable when the NASCAR Cup teams visit Talladega. Yeah, that’s right; you got it. It is unpredictable and it is one of the places on the NASCAR circuit that just about anyone in the starting lineup can win and that means, just about anyone can win. Now, it’s not likely that the most unexpected driver WILL win but it does mean even the least likely one of them CAN win depending on how things go on that last lap to take the checkered flag.

So, is that why the Super Speedways are so popular? Is that why you have to, at the very least, be there watching when the winner crosses the finish line and takes that checkered flag? Yeah, I do believe that has something to do with it and it usually proves out to be those final seconds of the race is when the winner either makes his final move or something happens to make taking the checkered flag a gift to an unsuspecting survivor.

Sure, I know there are those that use the old line of, “You have to be in it, to win it,” but I also know there are those that just happen to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of those final seconds when complete chaos breaks out. It wasn’t because of anything in particular they did, other than survive the race to the end, and it wasn’t because they had the superior equipment. It was because the race, basically, fell into their lap. (Hmmm… I think some call that racing luck and others, well, they just call it being lucky.)

I have to admit, there is something about Super Speedway racing that somehow manages to keep your attention. I also have to admit, there are times when the racing at Talladega (and Daytona for that matter) can become completely boring in the middle of a stage.

I’m not sure why I feel that way, but I do have a theory of my own. I’m sure you might be weary of me bringing up when I used to race but, I remember the nights when we ran lap after lap, door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper. For us drivers, it was intense to run like that and do some pushing and shoving to get the slower cars in front of us to move faster than maybe they ever had so we could open a gap to pass. We didn’t want to spin them out or cause them to wreck but we did want to win.

Sitting in the car, paying attention to all that was going on around us, front, sides and back, took a lot of concentration and focus. More often that not in those situations, the slower cars managed to hold the faster cars at bay and often we would all finish in the order we started. For those in the driver’s seat, it was intense fun. I do not know what it was like for the fans in the bleachers but either they enjoyed the same intensity we did or they might have been a bit bored since no one could advance or pass. I can only imagine they enjoyed the race because of the close racing and intensity.

I often find when I watch a Super Speedway race, there many times during the race my stomach is in knots just like on those nights I raced at the short tracks. I think that is why I like watching Super Speedway races all the way to the end. It’s because of those unknowns about what might happen at the very end. It’s about not knowing who might win until they actually cross that finish line.

So, just like we saw in the Round of Sixteen, the second race of this round is a place where the pressure is on to make up for bad performances in the first race of this round. Those that managed to pull out some good results a couple of weekends ago, fell below the cutline as of last weekend at Las Vegas. That makes this race at Talladega this weekend all the more important. From the talk going around, it appears really very few drivers are looking forward to the next two races. Well, that is other than Denny Hamlin since he is already in the round of eight with two races to basically coast and be out from under the pressure to perform.

Since this is Talladega and next weekend is the Roval, I just don’t see where anyone can afford to have a bad race. Except for a few, the points are just too tight and a bad race could mean not being able to move on to the next round. Talladega is a place where the unexpected happens with regularity and there is often the surprise winner and the chance of being involved in the Big One even when a driver is doing everything right.

Will this be a race that one of the non-playoff drivers wins? Will this be race that takes someone’s chance to move on to the next round away? Will this be a race that guarantees someone’s spot in the next round? All of these are great questions and I do wish I could give an opinion of which one is going to come to pass but I can’t. That’s why we’ll all be watching until those final seconds at the very end when one of these questions will be answered…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 2, 2021 – 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

Las Vegas Kicks Off Round Of Twelve

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Round of Twelve kicks off at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway tonight. They say Vegas is a place for gamblers and this could be the time for some to try something different. You know, take some chances. Maybe even gamble big time. What better place than Las Vegas to go for broke…

But wait a minute… there is only one in the round of twelve that hasn’t won this year. All of the others have at least one win; Kevin Harvick still has the big goose egg in the win column. Not that he wouldn’t like to have won and not that he hasn’t come close. That was proven last weekend at Bristol and showed just how intensely he wants a win. Yes… you know I’m talking about Kevin Harvick; the driver sitting twelfth in the points with the reset and Kevin Harvick a former NASCAR Cup Champion and multiple winner last season.

So, what of all the hype surrounding his faceoff with Chase Elliott last weekend at Bristol and how many think he is going throw a little payback Elliott’s way. Of course, there is good reason to think he might look for opportunities this weekend to make an impression but, I really don’t think that will happen. It doesn’t mean Chase won’t be looking over his shoulder if Harvick is close behind. It could mean there might be some extra tension if the two get into close quarters.

From this fan’s view, I believe there is absolutely too much on the line for both of them to let this drag on in this important round. We all saw how they talked about it after the fact at the track and it was not a short conversation. Both of them were fired up at the end of the race and it was obvious their emotions were running on high-test. In my opinion, there just isn’t a lot of wiggle room for either of them and one bad move could put both of them in jeopardy for moving on to the round of eight. Once again, and this is my opinion; I think this is over for now, unless… Well, I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blank of the “unless…”

I don’t know about you but does it seem that not a lot of things in the first round have been as predictable as some thought they might be? I’m wondering how the Round of Twelve will go after witnessing the “partial” mayhem of the Round of Sixteen. No, I’m not saying the first round was completely out of control and yielded totally unexpected results. What I’m saying is, this round is even more pressure packed and I do believe the desperation level has jumped quite a few notches even in the last week since Bristol.

I admit, before last weeks race, I had kinda/sorta written William Byron and Alex Bowman from possibly advancing into this round. Not that I expected Alex to underperform but that I didn’t expect Kurt Bush to have such a bad race. As for Byron, well, sitting where he was at minus eighteen points to the cut line, I thought he would just about have to win. He did drive his heart out and finished third, clearing the cutline by two points. That put him in above Almirola and Reddick.

So, that brings us to what might happen in Vegas considering the drivers looking to win this weekend. I’m not going to make a long dissertation of how I think the rest of the drivers will fare tonight. You’ve all heard the taking heads make their predictions and assumptions. Some I agree at least partially with but, I do have my own opinion of how I think the South Point 400 will go.

Even though several of the drivers have won at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and some are heavily favored to win. I’m just not so sure that there might be an unexpected winner. Lately, stranger things have happened, or at least came close to happening and this could be the night for a non-playoff driver to take the victory. It could be one of the four that didn’t make the cut last weekend or it could be someone like Austin Dillon or Ross Chastain. Neither have been running all that bad lately and, if that old nemesis, Racing Luck shines on them instead of dumping on them, either of them or others could end up in Victory Lane.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of year to make this fan a little leery of choosing the obvious. It is easy to look at the Top Twelve and pick a winner from them, but I just can rule out someone surprising us all with an unexpected victory. After all… This is Las Vegas Motor Speedway and one of the gamblers just might run the table. Not saying they will but, I am saying they could…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 26 2021 – 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

Bristol Under The Lights For Cutoff Race One In 2021

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Bristol is a fast short track with high banks and speeds and a place where rubbing is racing. It is also a place where emotions run high and tempers can flare. With the way the standings are for making it to the next round, tonight could prove to be one of the more aggressive races we’ve seen this season. Bristol is known for the excitement and drama it generates and with it being the cutoff race for making the round of twelve, well… you know what that means. One thing is certain when this race at Bristol under the lights on a Saturday night is done, four of the sixteen competitors won’t be moving on to the Round of Twelve.

Looking back on the last two races, I guess it could be said things haven’t gone as many expected. The first two races have been filled with unexpected happenings and really poor performance from some that were expected to be in the final four. From my view, the JGR teams have shown up as they usually do for the playoffs. At least two of the JGR teams have shown they may have what it takes to make it to the final four. Of course, that final race of the season is still a long way off and a lot can go wrong for any of the ones vying for the 2021 Championship.

You may ask, “Why would you say that?”

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t really all that unexpected by me. After the strength they showed for much of the season, the Hendrick teams have completely underperformed in the first two races of the Round of Sixteen. Naturally, there are a couple of ways to look at their performance so far in this round and it could just be they are just going through a dry spell. On the other hand, it could be they showed all they had during the regular season and they just don’t have anything left to dominate with.

The other side of the coin is that these first two races have been with the 750 package and that has proven to be the weakness in the HMS camp for most of the season. It is unfortunate that they never did find how to improve their shortcomings with this package over the 550 but it is a fact, at least from my view, they haven’t.

I suppose there will be some disagreement with me in this but, honestly, I don’t mind that at all. It’s just the way I see it and you may see it differently. I mean really, two of HMS teams are about to be eliminated from advancing, unless something really unexpected happens tonight. Of course, you know the ones I’m talking about; Alex Bowman and William Byron. At this point, there is only one guaranteed to move on to the next round and that’s Kyle Larson. Even Chase Elliott isn’t completely safe.

While I’m at it, let me just mention that I think Kyle Larson has underperformed so far in this round and, as we move to and through the next round, I believe he is really going to have to step it up a notch or two. Otherwise, there may be no final four for him either.

At one time, it was thought that all four of the Hendrick teams might make up the total final four. At this point, unless something really, really unexpected and almost impossible  happens, that likely won’t be the case come November.

Now it appears the talk is about the four JGR teams making up the final four. I’m not one of those that thinks that and for good reason. The JGR teams are pretty much in the same boat as the HMS teams. Yeah, it’s true, they actually are sitting a little better position but the circumstances are about the same. Many expect Kyle Bush to be in the final four but I’m not so sure this is a year he will make the final four. When it comes to Christopher Bell, I just don’t know. He is an unknown in my opinion.

Probably the biggest surprise to me as the rounds progress are the questions surrounding the Penske and Stewart-Haas teams. Although neither has been performing all that bad, neither has looked like they have the performance to take control of the standings and move on all the way the final four in November.

Hey, I know there are a lot of races to go before we get to the final four but, the performance issues are well documented. The best performers have been the Hendrick teams and the Joe Gibbs teams. At this point, and I know it is still early, I just don’t see a Penske, Stewart-Haas, RCR or Ganassi team in the final four. Sure, I know I could be wrong but, then again, I could be right…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 18, 2021 – 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 Two At Richmond Under The Lights

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

It’s another Saturday night under the lights for playoff race number two and it’s at Richmond Raceway. After last week’s race at Darlington, this one at Richmond becomes even more stressful than last week at “the Track Too Tough To Tame.” Richmond Raceway is another that has a descriptive term it has acquired over the years. It is called “The Action Track.” We can only wait and see how much “Action” happens there tonight and see if the playoff picture gets another shake up.

I guess it was inevitable that Denny Hamlin would win a race this season and it came at the right time for him. He can basically relax a bit while the rest of the round of sixteen qualifiers have to maintain their place in the top twelve or make up as much ground as they can from their weak performances from last weekend. Last weekend’s race was devastating for several and challenging for others. Not all of what went on was because of preparation problems. Some was just bad luck and being in the right place at the wrong time. From my view, the Hendrick cars got the worst of it except for Kyle Larson. He starts on the pole tonight.

If there can be anything picked up from last week’s race, I would say the race for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship is still pretty much between the two that were battling for the regular season Championship. You already know Denny Hamlin finished first and Kyle Larson finished second last weekend and you know it went right down to the end. The two of them sit fairly comfortably at the top with good points margins. The rest of the top sixteen have some work to do.

There is one thing to keep in perspective. Last weekend at Darlington was only the first race of the first round of the nine playoff races before the final four race for the Championship. There are already four drivers in trouble for making it to the next round only two races away. They head into this race tonight with a little more pressure on them than the others.

Michael McDowell is in the worst place of the sixteen and just about needs to win to even think about making it to the round of twelve. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying there’s no way he can make it to the next round, especially after the way last week went for several of the contenders; I’m just saying he either needs to win or get a lot of help from other contenders having trouble like he and others did at Darlington.

The next one in doubt is Kyle Bush. He was definitely not in a good place after his run-in with Austin Dillon and the wall. As was made clear in his assessments after the incidents that put him out, he was very unhappy with the way his car was running and didn’t appear to have much of a positive outlook for his own advancement to the next round. Of course, that doesn’t mean a lot at the moment and it does remain to be seen how he might rebound from that original setback in the first race of this first round in the playoffs. If they can’t give him a car he is comfortable with, I don’t think this will be his year to move much further forward. But, we all know this is Kyle Bush we’re talking about and he can, and probably will, shake it off and maybe even win this weekend. Wouldn’t that change things up more than a little?

I guess Martin Truex Jr. would be the next one to look at for a possible winner at Richmond tonight. Afterall, he looked like he had a good chance of winning last weekend except for that late pit lane speeding penalty. It does seem to this fan that he has had his setbacks often this season but Richmond Raceway is definitely a track he can win at.

Alex Bowman, William Byron and, yes, even Chase Elliott have a lot of ground to make up after their problems last weekend. It seemed that the Hendrick teams had fast cars and I don’t expect that to change very much tonight at Richmond. All three of these drivers need to have good runs tonight and I’m sure winning is on all their minds and, in particular, William Byron. Most of what happened to him was not of his doing. To use an oft quoted phrase, that old nemesis called “racing luck” did raise its head on him at least twice last weekend. He and Alex Bowman both have a lot of ground to make up.

I don’t know if it’s just me or if you noticed it, too. It seemed to me that just about anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for many of those contending to move on to the next round. It also seemed that the ones considered to be underdogs had a lot of things go their way. I know that may sound a bit strange but it did (and does) seem that way to me. Well, I mean except for those two guys at the front, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. I reckon they will be hoping they’re not the ones having to face down the “racing luck” beast tonight.

I don’t know but, it sure seems to this fan that the shaking up in the standings for the playoffs isn’t over yet. If things continue as they have so far in this latter part of the 2021 season and Richmond being Richmond, it’s anyone’s guess what the round of twelve will look like in two weeks. We know Denny is in and it is a pretty good bet Kyle Larson will be too. That leaves a whole lot of room for a whole lot of shaking to go on – or not…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 11, 2021 – 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

Darlington Kicks Off The Playoffs

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Okay… we finally made it to the 2021 playoffs and the top sixteen were set last weekend. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are still without wins as they move into the playoffs along with Tyler Reddick in the same boat. All of the others qualified in the top sixteen have at least one win. Of course, that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans as they start the playoffs at one of the most challenging tracks on the NASCAR circuit, Darlington Raceway. Other than playoff points, everyone of them have the same chance at making it to the next round. Well, that is until the end of these first three races.

I suppose there is the possibility that both Harvick and Hamlin could each win in these first three races and the same goes for Tyler Reddick. If that does happen, they would be qualified for the round of twelve and it’s anybody’s guess which of the sixteen wouldn’t move on. That’s what makes these first three races so interesting to this fan. Of course, I could say the same about the six after that. There is just no way of predicting which of the drivers will make it to the final four.

Yeah, I know no one really wants to hear any predictions at this early stage of the playoffs but, I also know many have already decided which of the sixteen will be in the final four. Personally, I have no idea which ones will actually make it to the final four. I know which ones I would like to see make it but, there are too many variables to even offer a guess at this point. I get a kick out of the ones that do make predictions at the outset of this first race. I don’t hold any of them to their predictions but I do still get a kick out of it.

Taking a look at the sixteen qualifiers shows that all four of the Hendrick teams are in along with all four of the Gibbs teams, all three Penske teams and two Stewart-Haas teams. The other three are individual team reps from CGR, RCR and Front Row Motorsports. Any way you look at it, that sets up some interesting possibilities moving forward through the three rounds to the final four.

Some have already floated the idea that there could be a final four made up of just the Gibbs Toyotas. Although I don’t think that will be the case, it is an interesting situation. The Gibbs teams have shown themselves to be much improved over the last number of races and it is quite possible some or all of them end up in the final four. Of course, that is at least nine races away at this present time but, nothing is out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to the way this 2021 NASCAR season has gone.

One thing that sticks in my mind along with many others is the question of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson both taking it all the way to the final four and battling it out for the 2021 Season Championship. It wouldn’t surprise me if that would be one of the possibilities but, I’m not so sure it will be that simple for either one of them. If it goes the way some hope, someone at JGR will have to miss the final four for Larson to be there.

The same goes for the Hendrick Chevys. Some have offered the possibility of all four of the Hendrick teams making it to the final four. No matter how appealing that may sound, I’m not one that thinks that really is in the realm of likelihood. Even though I am, admittedly, a Hendrick fan, I just don’t know that they have that much of an advantage over the rest of the competitors. I do admit it could happen but I just don’t think it will. Besides, if Denny and Kyle are to battle it out, a Hendrick team will miss the final four.

Look… There are way to many possible situations to consider without even the first race being run and there are a lot of reasons they call Darlington Raceway, “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” I think a lot of questions will be silenced after we all see how these first couple of races go. I will even go so far as to say, it may take more than a couple of races or so to even begin thinking of how it will end up. One thing is certain, however. These next ten weeks could prove to be some of the most dramatic and stressful races we’ve seen all season. I don’t expect any of the top sixteen drivers to hold anything back and you know what that means. Yep, that means the racing is going to be aggressive and anything can, and probably will happen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 5, 2021 – 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 Pressure Is On At Daytona

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The race tonight at Daytona is the final race of the regular season and there are two very important things going on… (Well, that is if it doesn’t rain and then all bets are off. Then it probably moves to Sunday afternoon and all the conditions could be different.)

The first thing of importance is which of the remining drivers that aren’t already qualified for the first round of the playoffs will fill that sixteenth spot. Since this is Daytona, we all know anything can happen and just about anyone that starts the race has a chance of winning it. That means there might be a completely unexpected driver making the playoffs and a couple of someones trying to point their way in – Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick – just might miss because there is an unexpected winner. Yeah, I know the chances of that happening are slim but, that possibility is there and it can’t be ignored.

So, there are actually a couple of battles going on in that first important thing. That would be the battle between Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick and they just happen to be teammates. It has been a tight battle between them for several weeks now and it remains to be seen which of them will out-point the other or which of them might come out the winner of this 400-mile race. Now, I’m not picking one of them over the other, especially considering how things have gone for them over the last couple of weeks in particular but, it could go either way.

The second important thing about this race is the battle between Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin for the Regular Season Championship. At one time not so long ago in this season, many had already given it to Denny. Admittedly, he did start off the season with very consistent finishes but no wins. It did appear he was going to be the Regular Season Champ without much doubt. But then, as usually happens in the NASCAR Cup series, someone named Kyle Larson began a string of top one and two place finishes, and soon, he had caught up to Denny, passed him and now he sits at the top of the chart for the season championship by 28 points over Denny Hamlin.

That, in itself, makes this race very important for these two and for tonight (or tomorrow if need be) adds an extra bit of drama to the whole thing. Unless something drastic happens to one or both of them, we likely won’t know the name of the Regular Season Champ until the checkered flag falls. Taking into the account how these two run at Daytona, it is anyone’s guess how this might turn out. Admittedly, since I am both a Chevy fan and a Hendrick fan, you know which one I am pulling for more than the other but, I’m at a loss as to how it will turn out. If Denny wins, he would gain playoff points and likely take the take the Regular Season Championship, too. If Kyle wins… well you already know what that means. Yep, he goes into the playoffs as Season Champ and with a lot of momentum.

So, if you think those are the only two storylines that will be going on, I beg to differ with you. Although locked into the playoffs, Kevin Harvick joins Denny Hamlin as in by points but no win so far this season. There probably wasn’t anyone that expected that to be a result in this season after the way they both performed last season. It is a relative shock that both of these guys have had what could be called a lack-luster season. I don’t think anyone expected either of them to not have even one win at this point in the season but, the facts are before us. Neither of them have a win and, if there had been a couple of more winners this season, neither of them would likely be in the playoffs.

From this fan’s view, there are a lot of things that will be going on when they take to the track for this one and a lot of possibilities of how this one race could change things all around. There are those in the playoffs that want another win or, at least, a really good finish. First, the winner will have to make it to the final checkered flag ahead of all the rest and will have to have survived any of the usual “big ones” this race usually generates. I am sure there will be at least one “big one” and possibly more. Or, it could be we actually have one of these races at a super speedway like Daytona with no “big one” and only minor problems for most, if not all of the contenders.

I don’t know about you but, I’m anxious to get this race going and then into the books. I don’t want to wait any longer to know how the Top Sixteen rounds out and whether or not Denny Hamlin or Kyle Larson is crowned the Regular Season Champ. No matter which of the drivers wins, one of these two will be the Regular Season Champ and then we get to move on to the playoffs. Wow! Just think about that… only ten weeks to go…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 28, 2021 – 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