After New Hampshire Damage Assessment from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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The end of the Sylvania 300 had a lot of “what ifs” in it and, from this fan’s view, those “what ifs” make a world of difference as we leave Chase race two in the rear view and look forward to the week ahead. As expected, Chase race two at New Hampshire was an exciting short track race with a lot of drama to spare right down to the final laps. Some of the Chasers faired well and some… well, let’s just say they’d really like to take a Mulligan.

Of course, we all know they can’t and they’re going to have to hustle in the last of the first three races in the Chase if they want to move on to the next round. The problem with New Hampshire for some is that the only way to correct the damage is to win this coming weekend and the intensity will be doubled or tripled for them. No matter how hard they try, only one person can win and perhaps change their 2015 Chase destiny and the others will fall by the wayside because four drivers will be eliminated when this coming weekend is done.

Getting back to the “what ifs” for a few moments; what if Kevin Harvick’s crew chief had made a different decision about his fuel situation? It is hard to say where he might have finished had they gone ahead and bit the bullet and stopped for fuel. It is true they made it to within three laps of the finish but, because they ran out of fuel, it took them much longer to get to the pits, refuel and get back on the track than it would have if they had made it a planned stop a few laps earlier. I realize it is the Chase and you have to take chances but they were already in the situation of needing a win or at least a very good finish.

Now I know there are those of you listening or reading this that say the #4 team wouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for Jimmie Johnson getting into him last weekend which resulted in another poor finish. That’s just another of those things I call “what ifs” and deals with a thing called racing luck. As I stated in last week’s Damage Assessment, it is my opinion (and I know I’m not alone in this) that they made a very bad decision last weekend also.

Just to refresh the scene a little from last week at Chicagoland, they ran four laps after the contact with Jimmie Johnson resulted in a tire rub with an extreme amount of smoke pouring from the car. It was my stated opinion they should have gone ahead and come into the pits, inspected the damage and repaired what they could and left with new tires and a full tank of fuel. By doing that they may have been a couple of laps down (which they could have possibly made up) and not have been in such a desperate situation coming into New Hampshire. Because of the decision they made at Chicagoland they ended up over fifty-five laps down and it moved them way down in the Chase grid standings. They blamed Jimmie Johnson for their problems and I still see it as a “what if” they had done it differently and finished better. (Of course I have to admit, I do love my job as a Monday morning crew chief. It is much less stressful.)

Every NASCAR and Kevin Harvick fan knows that he won’t throw in the towel and that the he and his #4 team will do everything they can to win this coming weekend but all of us also know it is do or die if they want to stay in contention and move on to the next round of the Chase.

The problem is that he isn’t the only one that needs to stay in contention and there is no guarantee he will. I’m sure Clint Bowyer will show up with the same intentions as Harvick. It is my opinion his chances are quite a bit slimmer than Harvick’s but that won’t change the intensity of how they approach the upcoming race. They both need a win to get in although Harvick could slip in IF there is a major shakeup in the standings above him.

Kyle Bush seems to be “enjoying” his usual Chase racing luck (and I stress that I am saying that with sarcasm) and he sits in thirteenth place after New Hampshire. He doesn’t have to win but he does need a good finish in the race ahead. The same goes for Paul Menard. Both of them are only a point out of the top twelve but neither of them can afford to have a bad race. At the very least, they both need to finish a couple of spots or so ahead of Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention Dale Jr. is in twelfth spot in the Grid standings because he ran out of fuel at New Hampshire? “What if” they would have made a quick stop for a splash of gas instead? Hm-m-m-m… “What if” he has a bad day in Dover…?

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 30, 2015 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, and

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