The Night Race At Bristol And The Pressure Is On from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Okay, I’ve been trying really hard to avoid the obvious, but I just can’t do it. I’ve got to say what everyone says about this race even though it is getting a little repetitive everywhere. Are you ready? Here it is… this is the summer Saturday Night race at Bristol and there are only three races to go to make the playoffs. That means the pressure is on and time is running out for those hovering around the bubble spot of sixteenth but, “It’s Bristol, Baby!!”

There. I think I’ve gotten it out of my system, at least for now. This is what is commonly known as the world’s fastest half mile oval and it is one of the most popular racetracks on the NASCAR circuit. It has high speeds, high banks and a lot of drama and high emotions. Since it is basically called a short track, there is also the expectation of typical short track racing with all the bumping and banging, pushing and shoving. Of course, along with all that, there is the expectation of paybacks if there are some leftover anger issues from previous races.

Well, there are a couple of things that might make this one a little more intense than has even become the usual for the races at Bristol, in particular the night race. There is the fact that passing will be hard and the likely way some will use will be the use of the bumper to move them out of the way. It seems the track wants to return this track back to a single groove track and that’s why they have only applied the “sticky stuff” to the bottom groove. as for the other grooves, well, they expect the drivers will work them in on their own. This only adds to the pressure on those drivers trying to make it into the top sixteen because, as we have endlessly been told, there is a major traffic jam at the bubble area of the standings.

Since emotions are already high, especially amongst those trying to make the playoffs, the setup of the track will be conducive to even higher emotions. In this fan’s opinion, the track has almost guaranteed there will be even more bumping and banging than usual and it could lead to some very “disgruntled” drivers as the night progresses. In other words, some of them may get “fighting mad” and it could make for interesting “conversations” when this one is over.

You will notice I have tried to carefully choose my words in the previous statements. That is because I don’t want to be accused stirring the pot. The track is helping do that all by itself by the way they have used the PJ1 (commonly called “sticky stuff” by many.) What I’m saying is, I believe there might be some very high emotions exhibited when this race is over and some of those emotions may get a bit physical.

From this fan’s view there are two obvious things that will be going on during this race. We all know the first is winning and second is seeing which of the drivers close to the bubble, either above or below the cut line, will make gains on the rest. That is where the real race is. After the last couple of weeks, it is anybody’s guess which of them might come away from Bristol above the cut line of sixteenth.
Two drivers are particularly struggling and it seems no matter which of them appears to get a break, the other one manages to have problems and keep the points close. I’m sure you know I’m talking about Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. They have both been trying very hard to stay in the top sixteen and both have had unbelievably bad finishes and both are still hovering right around the dreaded bubble spot.

At Watkins Glen, Jimmie Johnson looked to have the opportunity to make gains on Bowyer’s bad day only to have his hopes dashed by spinning into the tire barrier. Last week, it looked as though Clint was going to make major gains on Jimmie and then he, too, made a trip into the wall (just a racing incident) and managed to have a worse day than Jimmie. That’s the kind of stuff that’s been going on for both of them and it has made everything a whole lot more interesting and pressure packed. From my view, although it isn’t likely, it is possible neither them will make the playoffs. Their problem could be solved with a win and both of them are capable of winning at Bristol.

It still appears the Fords and Toyotas have, at least, a little advantage over the Chevys and that could spell trouble when it comes down to making the playoffs and winning the championship. Yeah, I know there are some Chevys already in the playoffs but I’m not so sure they will be in the final four. (Ok, I know it may be a little early to be making that kind of prediction, but they just haven’t shown the consistency and strength of the Toyotas and Fords.)

So… the big question for this “Saturday Night under the lights” is, who is going to win? Will it be someone already in by points but no wins in 2019 or will it be someone not in by points or wins? Man, I just don’t know but, it sure has gotten interesting and I don’t expect that to change until Bristol, Darlington and Indy are in the books. I don’t think we’ll know who’s in the playoffs until the very end of all three of those. Hang on! It looks like it’s going to be a wild ride all the way…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 17, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The MENCS Teams Will Be Flatout At MIS from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Yeah, you can go ahead and say it. I can take it (and I agree with you at least somewhat.) I know the title of this one is a little cliché and probably sounds a little cheesy and awkward. The meaning won’t change though, no matter how it’s worded.

With the reduced 550 hp package the Cup teams will be running this weekend, the racing will be, “Flatout” and the starts and re-starts will be fast and furious as the drivers take things to the limit to gain advantage over as many as they can. At Michigan International Speedway this weekend, I guess you could say it is going to be all about passing before you get passed and gaining as many spots as you can before the aero starts to affect you. In short, pass as many as you can and try to get into clean air.

So, what’s your opinion? Do you think the drivers around the bubble area are feeling the heat? Well, here’s my opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much emotion and tempers flaring as I have witnessed this season. Think about it. Don’t you think it has become extremely intense over the last several weeks?

Take Jimmie Johnson, for example. A lot of the talk this week has been about how upset he was with the move by Ryan Blaney at The Glen that cost Jimmie a good finish. We’ve heard it over and over again since the incident, of how many have NEVER seen him as upset as he was. Apparently, it may not be over yet and that could spell trouble for both of them if things carry over onto the track. It may not happen at MIS but, it may happen at a shorter track.

From this fan’s view, it is understandable. Jimmie had put himself in a position to take advantage of Clint Bowyer’s struggles and move into a more solid position in the playoff standings. Ryan’s bump definitely put an end to that possibility. The other part is that the seven time Cup Champ has been struggling over most of the last year and a half and this fan thinks it is definitely beginning to weigh on him. It is good to see some of the fire and intensity show up. It tells me he isn’t done with going for championship number eight. It may not happen this year, but…

The Johnson/Blaney incident wasn’t the only one at The Glen. There was another that brought loud cheers from the stands. Yeah… I know you know which one I’m talking about. That’s right. It was the one between Kyle Bush and Darryl “Bubba” Wallace. I don’t think it’s just this fan’s view but, there is a reason why the response was so great. (Well, this is my opinion anyway.) It’s because, more often than not, Kyle is a pain in the… well… how do I make this G rated? Awww, let’s just say he can be a pain in the backside.

Look, with my saying that, I am not taking anything away from his talent as driver or as a person. He is one of the most talented drivers ever in NASCAR and he will continue to be. It’s just that, from this fan’s view, when something happens, it is either someone else’s fault, (like with William Byron on the second lap at The Glen), or if it turns out in his favor, he thinks it’s just racing and “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” When it goes against him, well, that’s a completely different thing. He is in a bad mood and doesn’t want to talk about it or be interviewed. Hey, it’s not that I don’t understand the intensity and emotions, I’m just offering my opinion and saying that’s why the crowd in the stands reacted the way they did with the incident between him and Wallace. (I have to be honest here… I reacted the same as the crowd.)

From this fan’s view, one thing the rule packages, making the playoffs and the manufacturer struggles to be more competitive has done is add to the over-all intensity in the Cup Series. I don’t think it is any one thing in particular of the things I just mentioned but making the top sixteen for the playoffs has certainly moved to the top of the list in making things a bit more “interesting” along with all of them trying to earn playoff points.

So even though the drivers involved in the disagreements have had their discussions and, “worked it all out” between them, this fan isn’t so sure everything is over. I think there is too much riding on the bubble group, the playoff points and the regular season battle between Joey Logano and Kyle Bush.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this race will be as exciting and dramatic as the last few have been, but I do think it will be a better race than I thought it might be after the first practice started. This may be a race that is more like the ones at Daytona or Talladega than a normal Michigan race. The Chevys may actually have a chance of winning this one over the Fords and the Toyotas. I’m not really expecting that. I do think they’ll make it interesting though. It’s all going to depend strategy, fuel mileage and clean air…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 10, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Who Will Win At The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take to the track on Sunday afternoon, there are several somebodies that really need a win in 2019 at The Glen. The question is, who will win at the Glen and will it be someone that needs the win to lock themselves into the playoffs or will it be someone else?

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. The playoff picture is really coming into focus and there is a real traffic jam at, or near, the cutoff spot of sixteenth. There are several that really need a good finish at The Glen and not all of those are pressing the envelope to get in, but they are pressing to stay in the top sixteen. It goes without saying the emotions are elevated and the drama is more evident than ever.

There are four or five that hog the conversation every week and, well, at least from this fan’s view, it does make every race very interesting. Now, I’m not one to mince words – well, at least not on a regular basis – but not all of the drama and excitement has been for the win at the end of the races the last couple of weeks. Some of it has taken place a little further back in the pack and some of it has centered around problems even before the race begins. Yeah, several have had major difficulties in practice and qualifying and it has affected where they start and probably a little bit of where they finish. Others? Well let’s just say they’ve had some problems in passing inspections. I won’t mention any names because we all know which ones they are but, suffice it to say, there are more than a couple.

The big news this week has been about the crew chief change over at Hendrick Motor-Sports for the #48 Chevy of Jimmie Johnson. It goes without saying he has been struggling most of the season and he is now just outside the top sixteen for the playoffs. He is twelve points behind Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman and the last couple of weeks have been a struggle for him. Yeah, I know he won the second stage last weekend but that was his first stage win and when all was said and done, he finished fifteenth at the end. Yes, he did gain five points on the two ahead of him with that finish but he needs more. In fact, it would really help if he took his first win at The Glen in his career this weekend with his new crew chief. Looking at his recent stats for The Glen, it isn’t likely he’ll win simply because he hasn’t done all that well in the last several years. Still, he is a seven-time Cup Champion and we all know he knows not only how to drive but how to win.

The Glen is a tough road course and there are places around the track that anyone could get themselves into trouble. It has happened to some of the best and I don’t see any reason why it may not be a factor this weekend. Last year’s winner, Chase Elliott is looking to repeat but he has really struggled over the last several weeks, especially the last two. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t repeat. I’m just saying they’re going to have to step it up a notch over what the last couple of weeks have been like.

Okay, let’s take a quick look at a couple of others that need a win at The Glen. The first
from my view is Kyle Larson. Sure, I know he’s about thirty-five points ahead of Bowyer and Newman, but with the way his luck has been running, he needs a win to solidify his playoff spot and then maybe he and his team can focus on just how they will approach the playoffs. Besides, thirty-five points isn’t much with the amount of races left before the playoffs.

Another is Daniel Suarez. He is just twenty-one points behind Jimmie Johnson in eighteenth spot. A win would immediately move him into the playoffs along with his other SHR teammates. Of the four SHR teams, he is the only one outside of the top sixteen. Go ahead. Think back over the last several weeks of racing and tell me, how aggressive has he been. Mm-Hm, that’s exactly what I was thinking. His aggressiveness on the track (and sometimes off) has been as elevated as his emotions. He can’t really afford to have another bad finish or two. Well, that is, if he doesn’t win a race between now and the playoffs.

The problem with things being so tight around the bubble area of the standings is that it only takes a DNF from any one or more of the five I’ve mentioned and everything about the playoffs can change for those close to the cut. The same goes for a win from any one or more of the five in the weeks before the playoffs. If anyone thinks that stress, aggression and emotional levels aren’t at a heightened level just doesn’t get it. All of the drivers in the series want to win and they want to win this weekend at The Glen, especially those wanting to make it into the playoffs. The problem is, only one of them can.

So… who will win at The Glen this weekend? I’m not really sure but, I know it could get rough out there and, as far as this fan is concerned, this one should be intense in every way. Whether you talk about strategy, driver aggression or pit crew performance, this could be one of the best we’ve seen at The Glen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 3, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Second 2019 Trip To The Tricky Triangle At Pocono from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Hey, it’s the second trip to the Tricky Triangle for the MENCS teams in 2019 but does anyone really think it’s going to be like the last trip several weeks ago. Not if you’ve been listening to the crew chiefs and drivers as they anticipate taking it to the “tricky, sticky triangle” for the second time this summer.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the talk over the last week of the changes for this weekend’s race and one of the hot topics is all about the “sticky stuff” (PJ1) they’ll be putting down on the track. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten mixed signals from listening to the talk about the decision to have it on the track for the first time. Some say they think it is going to help and make it easier to pass and others say it is only going to make things a little more complicated.

One of the concerns is that turn two will be a place where there might be more wrecks than normal. They say the “sticky stuff” could make for three or four wide racing in that area of the track. If that is the case, since it has been a problem area in the past, it could prove to be interesting, especially if and, more likely, when the “sticky” begins to go away.

You know, I find it interesting how the drivers (and crew chiefs, I guess) are talking about how they need to be more aggressive with the 550 and 750 horsepower packages. Mostly they talk about the 550hp package and how hard it is to pass where it is used. It seems like everyone these days is using the bump and run to make their passes and if the other guy goes into the wall, well, that’s just the way it goes. When it happens to them, well, let’s just say they think a little differently. They’ve also brought back the old “rubbin’ is racing” adage because so many are using the rubbin’ to gain advantage and finish making the pass instead of getting stalled out as they try.

I will admit, most of them lean on the other guy just enough to get past him but the times of problems being caused by the rubbing are increasing and the emotions are beginning to surface with paybacks and torn up racecars. I mean, we all hear the drivers say they’re going to race the others like they race them. If that means things get a little rough and the paybacks happen more frequently, eventually NASCAR will step in like the have in the past. With more torn-up racecars that’s where it makes it even more expensive for the owners and that may not be a good thing either.

Hey, I know there is a big difference between rubbing and wrecking somebody and I’m okay with the rubbing. Where it begins to show a possible problem is with the higher emotions in play with trying to make the top sixteen for the playoffs. I know you’ve noticed emotions are running pretty high right now and I don’t see that changing at all until the top sixteen are decided, do you?

Speaking of the top sixteen being decided, there are those that can’t afford to have another bad week because the bubble area is getting a little crowded. First It was Clint Bowyer struggling and falling below the cut and now it’s Jimmie Johnson. At the moment, Bowyer holds a seventeen-point advantage over Johnson and Suarez. Ryan Newman is only four points ahead of Bowyer. And then there is Erik Jones. He is in fourteenth at the moment but another bad finish for him could spell disaster for him again also. To say things are heating up at the cut line is a major understatement from this fan’s view. It is exciting and dramatic and unfortunately, at lest from this fan’s view, things could get a little rougher than they already have.

The way things are right now, it kind of reminds me of a story of something that happened back when I was racing at our local track. In the late model class, one of the drivers put another out to win the race. They had been going at it for many laps and the guy that got put out wasn’t happy about being put out so he approached the other driver a wanted to know why he put him out. In one of the most memorable statements I ever remember hearing about, the guy put it to him this way, (I’ll edit it here to keep it G rated.) He said, “Look, I tried you high and I tried you low and then, cotton-picker, it was time for you to go!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 27, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Looking For Magic To Happen At The Magic Mile from a NASCAR Fan’s View

When the MENCS teams take to the New Hampshire track Sunday afternoon there will be several drivers and teams looking for magic to happen at the Magic Mile. When the race is done, the hope is that one of the non-winners close to the cutoff spot of sixteenth will win and be in the playoffs. From this fan’s view, time is running out for some of them and they need to win, get in and begin to think about how they can advance to the final four.

So, which of the drivers are hoping to win this one so they don’t really have to worry about making the playoffs? Well… the quick answer is, all of them. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Of course they all want to win. That’s what racing is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes of course it is. Winning is what every driver, in every race wants to do. The problem is not all of them have a car – or even the talent – to do so. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying these guys don’t have talent. They wouldn’t be where they are unless they do. Also, I’m NOT saying they aren’t winners or capable of winning. I’m simply saying that, no matter how much NASCAR tries to make the competition closer and closer, some teams find speed and handling faster than others and they take that advantage to the limit over the others. Whether it is because of horsepower, aerodynamics or because the present set of rules better fit a driver’s ability, some will always have an advantage over the others and it only follows that they are more likely to win at any track they compete at.

You and I have seen it week in and week out. Some show a lot of speed in practice, others in qualifying and others for part of a race or in a stage. When it comes down to the final flag, it is often the favorites that are pressing to win and all of the others are just “also rans.” Now that I’ve said all of that, which of the non-winners so far this season and that are still in contention actually needs to win to avoid disaster for this 2019 MENCS season?

Well, there are several and some of them have not had a good summer, while others have just managed to stay in the hunt although staying near the cut line for many weeks. Although there is a big battle going on for staying in the top sixteen, (or at least close to it), there are a few that just cannot afford to have another bad race and winning at the Magic Mile this weekend could at least clinch their place in the first part of the playoffs. Two that quickly come to this fan’s mind would be Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer. They are tied in points for the present. Of the two, Bowyer has had the worst performance over the summer months so far, and Johnson has had good finishes and bad finishes which has kept him just in or just out of the top sixteen. Either one of them could win on Sunday and either one of them would welcome the lack of stress over the next several weeks.

Eric Jones of JGR is another that could really benefit from a win along with Daniel Suarez of SHR. Both of them have shown speed but have not been able to take it all the way and end up in Victory Lane. Along with these two would be Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson. Newman is just outside of the cut line and can’t really afford to have any bad finishes while Larson is in thirteenth and needs to have some consistent finishes at or near the front to stay in the top sixteen. A win would be “Magical” for any one of these.

The question I’ve heard asked most often this week has been whether or not the Chevys can make it four wins in a row. In this fan’s opinion, I’m just not sure. Yes, they have shown speed and Chase Elliott was even on top of the speed charts for the first practice. Other than that, the Chevys didn’t really look all that impressive but, I have to admit, they have fooled me with their race performances over their practice and qualifying performance recently and that could mean a trip to Victory Lane again this weekend.

The Magic Mile is as very challenging track and, I have to admit, I do not fully understand the application of the “sticky stuff” in the turns all that much. I mean, if you’re going to apply it, apply it in a way that doesn’t handicap the drivers on entrance and exit of the turns. We only have to look at the number of backup cars that have been brought out so far. When the racing actually begins Sunday afternoon, there could be a lot more carnage than we’ve seen so far.

So… can we hope for another finish like we witnessed last weekend between the Bush brothers? Well… maybe but, this could be another race that someone wins because of the possible carnage or other reasons that makes absolutely no difference in the top sixteen standings and makes every remaining race even more important, dramatic and intense for those on or near the bubble…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 20, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Kentucky Speedway Is Next For MENCS from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Monsters Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take on the very challenging Kentucky Speedway tonight and, from this fan’s view, it looks like the Chevys just might be chasing mostly the Fords if they want to take home a win. That’s not to say there won’t be a few Toyotas in the mix, but the Fords seem to have the upper hand when it comes to consistent speed over both. Daniel Suarez took the pole with a very impressive lap time and the rest of the field might be chasing him all night… or, not.

Okay, I know that was a pretty safe statement and here is why I said it the way I did. Kentucky Speedway is one of the more challenging tracks on the Cup circuit for several reasons, the first being the difference between turns one and two and three and four. Of the two ends of the track, turns three and four are the biggest challenge because of the difference in the banking. With the package NASCAR has mandated for the cars, the drivers seem to approach one and two with more confidence than they do turns three and four. One and two have more banking and three and four have less. The difference is enough to make navigating the two ends of the track a very definite challenge.

Another item that needs to be considered is that this race is an impound race so we don’t really know which of them will have the most consistent speed throughout a stage. Since it is an impound race, they have to start the race with the setup they qualified with. That could mean there may be a discrepancy in how the competition will actually pan out over the course of the race. Daniel may have been setup to qualify better than to start the race with a setup that would keep him out front.

That is one question that will quickly be answered as the first stage progresses. I guess it would be interesting if Suarez was the first to win from the Stewart/Haas camp. The Stewart/Haas Fords have had the speed they just haven’t been able to bring it home at the final flag, a point that has to be a major disappointment to all at SHR.

Even though the Hendrick Chevys have been showing a great deal of improvement over the last several races, this fan isn’t sure Kentucky is a place where they will continue to show they are ready to be contenders for the Championship this year. Of course the fact of this being an impound race could show they were working more on race setup than qualifying and they may surprise everyone with how they finish. From this fan’s view, it isn’t something I expect but it would be a pleasant surprise considering how they qualified and looked in the practice sessions. That’s one of the interesting things about impound races. You never know how it will go until they actually start the race. Personally, I don’t really know how the Chevys will do but I do hope they are able to make it interesting.

Just for a moment I want to take a quick look back to last week at Daytona. We all remember how “Bad” Brad sent a message to the rest of the drivers about how he wasn’t going to be lifting for those that might try to block him. In last week’s article, I also said he may have unintentionally opened a door the rest of the field to think the same way. I really expected most, if not all, of the drivers would take the same attitude but have to admit, I was surprised at how aggressive many of them were.

Yeah, I know they were also trying to beat the possibility of inclement weather and a rain shortened race but it was definitely a different attitude in the way many of them drove. In the end, two things happened. First, and interestingly enough, Kevin Harvick drove Brad Keselowski the same way he drove him earlier in the race and Brad ended up in the wall and out of the race from the bump and run incident. Second, Clint Bowyer didn’t lift for Austin Dillon and it caused the “Big One” that took out much of the field and allowed a totally unexpected driver and team to win the last July race to be held at Daytona. I guess in a way, you could say it was fitting.

Anyway, taking a quick look at tonight’s race at Kentucky Speedway, I don’t think even the drivers know exactly what to expect when all of them take to the track. During the practice sessions there wasn’t a whole lot of cars running together to see how they might react with each other in traffic. It appeared to be more about how to handle the two different ends of the track and how reliant they should be on the “sticky stuff” in the upper grooves in the turns. I don’t know about you but that could mean one of two things for tonight’s race. Either it is going to be runaway for one or maybe several or, it could be a wreck-fest. I reckon we’ll just have watch to find out…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 13, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Coca Cola 400 At Daytona from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The MENCS teams take it to the Super Speedway at Daytona tonight, (if it doesn’t rain again), so let’s talk a little bit about this Coca Cola 400 at Daytona. It is the last time the summer race will be taking place on the fourth of July. Next year it will be the last race before the playoffs begin so it is the end of an era. It is, and has been, one of the most popular races of the NASCAR season and it is the place it all started.

Besides all the history and the changes coming in the future, it is a race both looked forward to and dreaded by the drivers. It is a race that many call an equalizing race because just about anyone starting the race can be the winner of it, whether a large well financed team or one of the lesser smaller teams. Winning at Daytona is something that every driver wants to do and, because of it being a Super Speedway with lots of drafting and door handle to door handle, bumper to bumper racing, it really is anyone’s race to win.

Oh sure, there are those that are expected to win and there are more than a few favorites, but there are absolutely no guarantees any of the favorites or biggest names will win. From this fan’s view, that makes this one of the more interesting races to watch.

You’ve already heard about the “fireworks” between Brad Keselowski and William Byron I am sure and that just may put a little different wrinkle in the race tonight. There is one thing that has always been at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to the Super Speedway races and that is what has come to be called the “Big One.” With the statements that Keselowski made after the altercation with Byron, a door has been opened that could make the possibility of one or more “Big Ones” even more inevitable.

Hey look, I will be one of the first to admit that Brad Keselowski is one of the best when it comes to Super Speedway races and I can understand his frustration with being wrecked when he could have won several of the last Super speedway races. From this fan’s view, it appears he attributes those losses to being “to nice” because he lifted to keep from wrecking the person blocking him. Now he is telling everyone on the track racing with him, if they pull down or over in front of him to block his run on them, he won’t be lifting. Basically, he is saying he will wreck them, (or, at least move them out of the way), before he will lift to let them block him.

I have to admit two things. First, I do understand where he is coming from and his frustrations. Second, by taking that attitude, he is opening a door he may not have intentionally intended to open for himself and all the other drivers on the track.

When I first heard his statements about the incident with Byron, the first thing that popped into my mind was that he was, and is, one that uses the block to keep the others behind him. He has used it many times to stay out in front of the pack coming up behind him in the draft. Not all of his blocks have been “convenient” to those trying to pass him and he has had some that are closer calls than others. In other words, from this fan’s view, he has done the same thing to others he is complaining about what Byron did to him last time that cost him the race and a wrecked race car. It is obvious he is still frustrated by the move Byron pulled on him and he took the opportunity to give a little payback and send a message to Byron and the others on the track. He isn’t going to lift.

Here’s the truth as this fan sees it. He can have that attitude and he can do what he says he will do but, the door is now open for others to expect how he is going to race them and he can expect them to treat him the same way. From my view, I don’t think they’re going to be as willing to lift as they might have been in the past and he still might be the one spinning into the infield or up into the wall and taking a bunch of cars with him and ending up with a wrecked race car and another loss that could have been a win.

Now that I’ve said all of that, I can’t forget that there will be a lot of cars running together, and probably it will often be Chevys with Chevys, Fords with Fords, Toyotas with… well… you know. If they find it works as the race progresses, there may be a mixture of brands as they all try to position themselves for the final laps. All of this will be taking place at 200 plus miles per hour. That’s fast and it also means things can happen fast… Look out Brad, you might be coming for them but they’re going to be coming for you, too and it will all be happening at close quarters and around 200 mph…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 6, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

MENCS Teams At Chicagoland from a NASCAR Fan’s View

So… what’s the BIG STORY for the race at Chicagoland this weekend? Well… from my view, (and in my opinion), there isn’t one. Well, actually, there are what some call “Big Stories” but, from this fan’s view they aren’t big – just more of the same. There is the same talk about the BIG winners so far this season and how they are the “favorites” to be out front when the final black and white checkered flag drops on Sunday afternoon. There is also the hope that there will be a finish like there was between Kyle Larson and Kyle Bush last season OR possibly something similar between some other drivers.

From this fan’s view, this has been a very different kind of year for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I’m not so sure my view is of much interest to many but it is still my view and, for some reason, I’m not sure why, this season has been a little boring to me. I’m not sure if it has to do with the lack of performance from the Chevys or the lack of performance from some of the older and more accomplished drivers. Whatever it is, it definitely has made a difference in how or what I think as each week of racing approaches and arrives.

I mean, think about it. When has some of the best racing taken place over the first half of the season? Has it been when the starts and restarts take place or has it been when they are just clicking off the laps to get to the end of a stage or take the final flag? Has it been as hard for Ford fans as it has been for the Chevy fans to watch the Toyotas – and I hesitate to use the word – dominate the way they have this season?

Let me ask you some questions. Do you have a favorite driver other than those that have won most of the races this season? Do you have a favorite organization other than JGR or Penske? Have you lost interest in a race when your favorite has either dropped out due to accident or mistake that has put them completely out of contention? Do you find yourself hoping for cautions so you can at least see some aggressive racing for a few laps until things settle back down to the inevitable?

Yeah… that’s what I thought. Me, too.

Look, I still start out every race weekend with the hope that my favorite driver, drivers or teams will make a good showing. I have the hope they have found something that will allow them to at least run with the usual leaders or even win but, I have to admit, that hasn’t happened yet this season – at least with any consistency.

Contrary to what some may think, I am not just a one driver, one organization fan. I have several favorites, driving something other than a Chevy, on different teams and there are those I would really like to see win or, at least, do well on any given weekend. I have also found there are some drivers I didn’t used to like or want to win at all that I now find myself pulling for. I have watched how they have matured and have come to respect them as drivers whether they drive a Ford, Toyota or a Chevy. Of course, I am still am a big Chevy fan, still a Hendrick Motorsports fan and would like to see Jimmie Johnson win his eighth Cup Championship. I would also like to See Kevin Harvick get back into the same form he was in last season.

Now, I have to admit that waiting for Jimmie Johnson to win a race over the last two seasons has been a little like waiting for John Force in the NHRA to get his 150th win this year. (Yeah, I’m a big Drag Racing fan, too. Been a John Force fan for longer than I care to admit.) It has also been difficult to watch the Chevys be underdogs over most of the last two years and hardly ever be considered a threat to win. (Yes, I still have a heavy Chevy bias, never raced anything but Chevys when I was racing and my work van is a Chevy.)

So, you might be asking, “Are you losing interest in NASCAR racing?”

To that I can state an emphatic, “No!” I just decided to start off this part of the season in a little different way. After all, NBC is taking over the MENCS coverage from Fox Sports through the end of the season and they will have a different take on the way things look and are in NASCAR and, though it might be different, it will still be great coverage.

This weekend they will be running what is referred to as the 550 rules package and that will be one of the biggest differences the teams will face this weekend. I am anxious to see how the Chevys faire and can only hope they make a better showing than they have recently. I am also interested in seeing how Kevin Harvick and the other Stewart/Haas teams run. They haven’t been in victory lane yet this season at all.

Okay, just for fun, let’s say that the two Kyles face off the same way they did at the end of the race last season at Chicagoland. Does anyone really believe that Kyle Bush would be in the same jovial mood he was in last season after he and Kyle Larson got together on the closing lap and, when the bumping, banging and racing is done, Kyle Larson finishes first? Yeah… that’s my opinion, too…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 29, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Sonoma Road Course With A New-Old Twist from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take on the road course at Sonoma. It will be the same old road course with a new twist on the old course layout. Of course, I know you’ve already heard they will running on the old layout of the track which includes the carousel and it hasn’t been used for the Cup Stock Cars of NASCAR in a very long time.

So, what is so special about the race at Sonoma this weekend? Well… I guess you could say there are several things and one of them has to do with Darrell Waltrip. He is retiring from the broadcast booth after this race on Sunday afternoon after almost twenty years in that part of the NASCAR scene. He hasn’t been in an actual race in a long time but has been around NASCAR for most of his life. His first race in what is now called the Cup series was at Talladega in 1972 and he was a very important factor for many years. (I was a fan of his for a long time, too.)

Another reason this race is special, (and not just this season), is because it is a challenging racetrack and demands a lot from the drivers and teams for the entirety of the race. To add to the challenge for the MENCS teams is that this is the first time in twenty years the series has used the carousel part of the track and it is the first time any of the present day drivers have driven the course in this fashion. That should make an always interesting Sonoma Road Course race even more interesting and it could open the door for someone that hasn’t won this season to win and that appears to be the way many are thinking.

Of course, we all know there are those that are expected to perform at, or near, the front and there are those many think WILL win simply because they have won in the past. From this fan’s view, I’m not at all sure which of them might win but I will say there are those I would rather see win than others.

I won’t go into that just yet but, I will say something I never thought I would say. “I’m tired of seeing the same few drivers win,” even though several years back, I liked it when my favorite driver was winning a lot of races. I couldn’t understand, then, why other fans felt the way I do now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that none of my favorite drivers are winning and it could be that the Chevys still struggle to find speed and track position when it counts, even after two years of working with the Camaro.

Yeah, I know they are making progress but I’ve been a Chevy fan for a long time and, in my opinion for whatever reason they chose the Camaro, I still think it was a bad choice and there is something about it that just doesn’t perform like the Fords and Toyotas on the track. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is but I don’t think it’s all about horsepower. That may have something to do with it but there is something about hooking it all up to the track that is different. I’m not an engineer, never claimed to be, but in my amateur opinion something makes the Chevy struggle more than the other two makes, even when they are out front in clean air. (Now that I’ve said all that, maybe it does have “a little” something to do with horsepower after all, even though NASCAR has limited the amount they can have…)

One thing about the race Sunday afternoon at Sonoma is that I think it will be much more interesting than the race at Michigan two weeks ago. The Sonoma track is narrow and yet fast in some areas even though the average speed is under 100 mph for this two plus mile circuit. To this fan, Michigan was a rather humdrum race and, if it hadn’t been for the cautions and restarts, it wouldn’t have had much action at all. I disagree with those that say it was a great race and heard more than one say it was great to see that the leader couldn’t pull away from the rest when they got out front. That didn’t make it interesting any more than the little bit of two and three wide racing there was. That may have been true but there was still a limited amount of passing and a lot of follow the leader.

It is likely that the usual and expected ones will run out front. To name a few would be the most talked about drivers like, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kurt and Kyle Bush. Personally though, this fan would really like to see someone win that hasn’t won so far this season. Though there are many that fall into that category, a few I would really like to see win would be David Ragan, Michael McDowell, William Byron, Alex Bowman and, yes, even Jimmie Johnson. Though the others mentioned are the most talked about, these have a good shot at winning on Sunday afternoon also. It all depends on how the strategies play out and how many mistakes AREN’T made…

Well… at least that’s this fan’s view…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 22, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

MENCS Take On High Speed Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well… it’s another one of those races that not too many are willing to admit how they think it will go. There are good reasons for that but the main one has to do with the fact this is the first time this package has been used at the Michigan International Speedway by the MENCS teams. As in recent previous weeks, there will be limited horsepower and maximum downforce and it should prove to be a very interesting race.

From this fan’s view, it looks like the Fords could have a very solid day if practice and qualifying give us any idea of performance for the race. I’ve never been one to put too much stock in qualifying times but, the Fords and Toyotas both appear to have a slight advantage over the Chevys. The Stewart/Haas teams do appear, at least so far, to be the fastest over the rest on the long runs and it could be a long day for those that can’t keep up the same pace.

Now I know you probably think Kyle Bush should have a chance at taking the win away from the Fords and I agree. That could be a real possibility with the way he’s been running over this first part of the season. Last weekend at Pocono, Kyle had the fastest car and, although he didn’t win going away from the rest, he did win handily. That could carry over to this Sunday afternoon but I’m not all that sure.

Since I’ve brought up the Pocono thing, it might be good time to offer my opinion of the race last weekend. (I know, I know… this is just about where I do this every week lately, huh?)

The race last weekend at Pocono was one of the more interesting ones there I have seen in recent times. To start off with, I wasn’t sure what the competition was going to look like but it turned out to be interesting all the way through. (Notice I didn’t say “very interesting.”) It really was a very good race but I have to be honest and say it wasn’t spectacular, but I admit, it was “very good.”

It is also my opinion, Kyle Bush wouldn’t have won it if Kevin Harvick and the #4 SHR team hadn’t beaten themselves. Yes, I admit, Kyle was fast but I’m not so sure he was going to beat Kevin Harvick without the error and part failure. Be that as it may, Kyle did win and was on the outside pole when the race started, so there is no doubt he had the speed needed to do what he did.

I have to admit, Kyle Bush is probably one of the best ever to sit in a MENCS stock car. He has a lot of talent along with a lot of desire to win. I know there will be a lot of you that disagree with me but not everything about him is all that great. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions. I’m not going to say he isn’t all that great because he is. He shows his talents and abilities week in and week out and not just in the Cup series. It all shows up in his win record and by where he usually finishes at the end of a race – often very near the front.

Yes, this fan thinks Kyle Bush is one of the best ever but this fan also thinks he is the biggest griper. If he’s not winning, he moans and groans and blames the cars and the 2019 NASCAR mandated rule package for his inability to win every race. Who knows, he might be right but someone wins with this same package even when he doesn’t.

Oh well… Back to this weekend’s race.

As I stated earlier, the Fords do look to be the ones to watch based on what I observed in the practice and qualifying sessions. Joey Logano took the pole position and there are a bunch of Fords in the top five and even in the top ten.

Unfortunately it appears the Chevys aren’t quite up to the task except for Kurt Bush. From this fan’s view, they just might struggle to gain spots on Sunday afternoon and even the Toyotas looked to be more competitive than the Chevys, especially the JGR Toyotas of Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin. They were particularly noticeable in the speed category compared to the Chevys.

Since this is an impound race, I’m sure the race will show much of what I’ve said here may not happen the way I think it will and is just because you can’t tell much from practice and qualifying. Still, I do believe this could be a banner day for the SHR Fords and the Penske Fords. Which of them might win is anybody’s guess and they might get beat by themselves or because of the way the cars were set up for qualifying as compared to race setup.

One thing is certain. The Michigan International Speedway is a high speed track and all of them will be running flat out, even in packs running two or three wide. If nothing else, it should prove to be very interesting to watch and, if there are a bunch of cautions and restarts, it could be anybody’s race, including someone driving a Chevy…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 8, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated