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

Michigan Means Two To Go To Make The Playoffs

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Ok… so last weekend turned out to be… well… I guess I could say, interesting. I think that would be an understatement at best but, I really don’t know any other way to express it. Not much changed in the top sixteen and it is still a tight battle for those last two spots. Since this weekend is at Michigan International Speedway, that means this race and the one next weekend at Daytona are all the chances anyone has to make it into the top sixteen either by points or wins. If someone other than one of the expected and previous 2021 season winners takes this one, it could really make next weekend at Daytona even more pressure packed than it already will be.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick still have no wins this season and both of them would love to have a win this weekend and have no worries heading into Daytona next weekend. In fact, just about everyone presently in the top sixteen would like to not have to worry about anything going to Daytona. That’s one reason why I think this race at MIS is going to be one for the books, especially for those that are not already locked into the playoffs.

Denny Hamlin almost stole the victory last weekend at Indy and would have solidified his spot in the playoffs and probably made it even more interesting for the 2021 season championship battle he is in with Kyle Larson. At the present, he is behind in that battle and needs a win or a really great points day compared to Kyle Larson Sunday afternoon. Denny is 22 points behind Larson and really needs something spectacular to happen to get back in the hunt for the 2021 season championship. If he wins it makes the battle even tighter between the two. If he scores a lot of points compared to Larson, it also makes the battle even tighter. If he has a bad day compared to Larson, it would make next weekend at Daytona one of his most important races of the 2021 season.

Kevin Harvick is in the playoffs as it stands right now but he still has no wins on the season and really hasn’t performed all that bad this season. He is one of the drivers that has a very good record at MIS and is one that could pull off the victory this weekend. The Stewart-Haas teams have struggled a bit this season and his number four team is no different. Even though he has run well, he hasn’t really been in the hunt at the end of a race. That’s not to say he hasn’t been running good it’s just to say he hasn’t been running good enough. When it comes down to it, a win this weekend could be just the shot in the arm he and his team need to go into the playoffs with more confidence to be more than an also-ran in the playoffs.

The Penske teams have been having their own set of problems this season and Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have each had lower than expected results. Yes, they both have wins and are guaranteed to be in the playoffs but, they have not shown the usual strength entering into the playoffs as in past years. From my view, the Fords usually perform pretty well at MIS and this weekend might be their time to shine. Still, there Hendrick Chevys and the Gibbs Toyotas might have something to say about that.

Speaking of the Gibbs Toyotas, this is another race that I just can’t ignore two things. I’ve already talked about Denny Hamlin and his situation but, Kyle Bush and Martin Truex Jr. could make waves when all is said and done Sunday afternoon. The Toyotas have run strong in recent weeks but have also had their share of troubles. I’ve mentioned in the past that Kyle seems to run better when they have practice and this weekend isn’t one of those. Michigan isn’t a track the teams haven’t seen before so it might not be the same as it appears to this fan. Either one of these drivers could win and there is something to be said for momentum heading into the playoffs even with Daytona happening the week before.

Gee, I almost forgot to mention the battle between teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon. Both have been battling for the final playoff spot for several weeks now. For the moment, Reddick holds the edge by twenty-eight points but that could change this weekend. You know how it goes. If something happens to one or the other causing a DNF, the whole picture could change. If Austin wins, which he very well could, that would knock Tyler out and mean he would have to win at Daytona. Wow, can you even imagine the pressure these two teammates must be feeling. If someone unexpected wins, that could change the whole picture for both of them going into next weekend.

The Hendrick teams have been running very strong and are somewhat favored by many to win this one. It is true, they have been showing a lot of consistency and, really, all four have been running strong. From this fan’s view, the only thing standing in the way of a Hendrick team winning this weekend is that the package all teams are running this weekend is the weaker package, performance-wise, for HMS. Look, I’m not saying they don’t have a chance, I’m just saying the odds are a little better for the other teams to run with them. Of course, Kyle Larson is one of those HMS teams and, well, you know how he has been running this season…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 21, 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

Taking It To The Road Course At Indy

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

For years, taking on the Brickyard meant taking on the historic oval track. This year, that time is apparently over and the NASCAR experience will be on the fourteen-turn road course. Oh, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, the Indy cars and Xfinity series also took to the Road course this weekend. Of course, by the time the Cup cars take to the track for qualifying and the race on Sunday afternoon, the other two will have already been long done with their races.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, having practice on Saturday and then qualifying and the race all on Sunday, some things may go a bit differently than what we might expect. Expectations are for Kye Larson, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. to be the favorites to lead the way. Without giving my opinion away for how I think things might go, let me just say there are a few ways this race could go.

One thing I mentioned in my last article is, Kyle Bush. When there is practice and/or qualifying, it definitely appears to help Kyle perform better on race day. I don’t know if it was coincidence but, from my observations, that little extra time on a track helps him and it could greatly improve his chances for finishing at, or near, the front when it comes down to the final lap. No, I’m not saying he will win but, I am saying it might improve where he finishes.

Now that I’ve opened that up for discussion, there are several other drivers that don’t usually take advantage of running in the Xfinity series on a regular weekend. Some of those names are well known and one or two are veterans. From this fan’s view, it appears they are looking to use the extra time on the track to improve their performance.

One of the most visible standout names is Kevin Harvick. He is fairly safe when it comes to points for being in the playoffs but he has no wins this season. In comparison to last season, I don’t know anyone that expected that to be the case. Sure, I know you’ve been hearing that more often than not in the last number of weeks but, it is a fact the Stewart-Haas teams have struggled this season. I believe Kevin Harvick is looking to get more comfortable and perform at a higher level than he might without the extra track time. After all, he does have several wins at the Brickyard. From my view, I believe it will help him.

Denny Hamlin is another that would really like to get a win this weekend. He and Kyle Larson are locked in a tight battle for the regular season championship and a win would definitely help him going forward over the next few weeks. At the moment, these two are tied points-wise but Larson has five wins to Hamlin’s none. There are those that think Denny will win before the playoffs start but I’m not so sure. He has had a lot of chances to win and he has been very consistent most all season but, I’m one of those that thinks he might not get a win in the regular season and, depending on who might win these next three races, I’m not even sure he will be in the playoffs. Let me clarify. He likely will be but, there is that outside chance he won’t. It depends on whether there are those first time winners in the next three. Wow!! Wouldn’t that be a shock. Someone with so many points not making the playoffs simply because there were sixteen winners this season.

Okay… enough speculating on the two “most-likelies” to make the playoffs, not making the playoffs. Even though it is possible this could happen, it probably won’t. But, you know as well as I do, it has been that kind of year.

Let’s say, just for argument’s sake, the favorites don’t win this one at Indianapolis and one that is a good road racer does. There are several that come to mind very quickly, at least to this fan’s mind. Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe. Need I say more? Any one of these guys, and a few others, could win this one and some of them need a win just to make it in or stay in the top sixteen. If, and I really don’t think it will but, IF a first-time winner in this season takes this one, can you imagine how that will shake up the playoff picture. Not only shake that up but it will put an extra amount of pressure on two drivers, in particular.

No matter how you look at it, this will be a very interesting race. A lot is riding on having a good run for those on the bubble and those without a win. From watching the Indy cars and the Xfinity series, there is a chance that just about anything can happen by the time this one is over on Sunday afternoon. The track is relatively treacherous in some turns and passing areas and, even if someone is running well, it could quickly change with a mistake of their own or someone else’s.

I still think there is a high possibility Chase Elliott or Kyle Larson could win and there is always Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin that will be pressing the envelope at the end. No matter how it goes, I’m thinking this one could be one of the most dramatic and intense races of the season. Or… it could be that one or more of the Hendrick cars just dominates all afternoon and walks away with another victory…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 14, 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

Cup Teams Take It To The Glen

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

For the first time in two years the NASCAR Cup teams take it to The Glen and, as usual, there are those favored to win and those that don’t even get honorable mention. Along with that, the biggest question on most peoples’ minds is, “Who will win?” After the last race – which seemed like a year ago to me – someone winning like Aric Almirola did could even further shake up the playoff situation and some in the top sixteen now could be out. I mean think about it. He was twenty-seventh in points and quite unlikely to make the playoffs without the win. Instead, he jumped right over a bunch of drivers into the coming playoff battle. That really makes every one of the next four races even more pressure packed and stressful than they would normally be.

So… there are still a few drivers in on points but without wins. In reality, there are two places left to make the top sixteen for the playoffs but, if Kyle Larson overtakes Denny Hamlin for the points lead, that could possibly open up another spot. Sure, I realize Denny has a lot of points stored up but, if Larson does pass him for the regular season championship spot, his reserved spot disappears if three drivers without a win take a win over the next four races. Talk about making things interesting, well, that would do it.

Kevin Harvick is another everyone thought would have at least one win this season but, as you already know, he is winless so far this season like Hamlin. Both of these drivers are sitting in a good spot points-wise but they are still in a precarious position. Without a win, they are held hostage by the fact that someone that hasn’t won so far this season, wins every one of the four races coming up in the next four weeks.

I’m guessing you’re thinking there’s just no way Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick don’t make the playoffs unless they win a race. Well, from this fan’s view, it’s been that kind of year and it could happen just like I just said. I realize that scenario contains a very big “if” in it but the possibility is still there.

There is something to be said about some of the veteran drivers that have been in the sport for a while not winning in a season. It doesn’t mean they’re washed up and should consider retiring. It mostly just means they’re having a bad year. With the major change with the cars coming next season, it could be they’ve been sinking more time and testing in the new car. All this year, it appears the Fords have suffered with a lack of speed and handling. They just haven’t looked like the Fords of last year.

Admittedly, it does seem they’re beginning to turn that around but that could just be because of the differences in the engine and downforce packages. Even the Penske teams look to have turned a corner and it couldn’t happen a better time, especially considering where they start this weekend at The Glen.

There has been a lot of talk about the Camrys getting into the mix and apparently the talk has some weight to it. I still say, Kyle Bush performs better when he has some extra time on a track no matter where it is. When he isn’t in the Xfinity series car or they have to start a race with no practice, he just doesn’t always seem to rise to the occasion as well. Now I realize that is my opinion but, it is something to consider for this weekend. I’m not saying he won’t run competitively or that he won’t win; I’m just saying it is something I noticed over the last couple of seasons and, most times, it seems to pan out that way.

That brings us to the Chevys. All of the Chevys have been running strong this season, especially the Hendrick Chevys. Since I’m a Chevy fan, I do have concerns over their recent performance and whether the Hendrick Chevys have lost the edge they had on everyone earlier in the season or whether the rest of the teams have caught up to their performance level. It really does appear to this fan all of the Chevys have run better this season and that statement goes for all the Chevy teams.

Still, that doesn’t alleviate my concerns that they’ve fallen a little behind. Even with my saying that, there have been some fairly bright spots recently and that would particularly include the performance of the CGR teams. Both Kurt Bush and Ross Chastain have shown a lot of strong performance in recent weeks.

As usual, the first driver many are picking to win this weekend is Chase Elliott. I believe he will rise to the occasion in his usual fashion on a road course but there are several others that could win this one. Although not all of them drive Chevys, I do think the Chevys have a good chance of making a very good showing at The Glen on Sunday afternoon. There is really no reason to go through a long list of possible winners but, I do believe this one just might belong to Kye Larson. If he does, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see where Denny Hamlin finishes just to see how important next weekend becomes for the present points leader, huh?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 7, 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