After the race Monday at Chicagoland the pressure is on those in the top twelve that had a less than good finish to have a good finish at Loudon. That’s not to say anyone is out of it yet, but some have made it a bit harder on themselves. Some ran out of fuel and finished poorly and others just struggled all day and now have to make up points and places before they get too far behind.
There is something about the Loudon track that makes the race this weekend a pivotal one and it is absolutely necessary for those that did have a bad day at Chicago to make up the lost ground this weekend or face being labeled, “also-rans.” Yeah, I know I’m repeating myself somewhat at the moment, but with the challenge the Magic Mile presents the competitors, it is a make or break race.
Anyone even vaguely familiar with this track knows it is pretty much a flat track and it is hard to pass. Other than having a car that outperforms the rest of the field, the winner this weekend will have to depend on their crew to gain them as many positions as they can on every pit stop or at least maintain their track position.
Just in case you didn’t notice during the last practice session, there is only about a half second separating the fastest from the slowest and if that doesn’t spell pressure and intensity for the limited number of laps, I really don’t know what does. I expect the drivers to press for every position they can as quickly and as aggressively as they can. It is a well know fact when the pressure is on, drivers have a tendency to be a bit impatient and that means emotions will be running high on Sunday afternoon.
If you don’t believe there is a lot on the line this weekend, consider what happened during the qualifying session. The threat of rain was prevalent throughout the session and when the skies did finally open up a bit, there were some major elevated stress levels as the last five cars waited to qualify.
Of course this is old news to most of you, but you did notice the mind games being played by those that actually qualified better than even they expected and they didn’t want to see NASCAR call the qualifying and let the last five start up front based on their speeds in the first practice. Most of the ones that were concerned were those previously mentioned as ones that qualified better than they expected and they would have been doomed to starting much further back in the pack if the qualifying had been cancelled. As it turned out, the wait hurt some of those last five and others did as best they could with the slightly different track conditions they had to work with. Probably the biggest loser was Juan Montoya and he did struggle on his qualifying lap.
Do I think NASCAR made a wise choice to continue the qualifying after the light rain dampened the track? I have to admit, even though it was a difficult choice, it was the right one and it only proves once again, that in NASCAR competition the cream always rises to the top. Considering how things turned out and had the light rain not fallen, I really do think there was a possibility those last five might have qualified better than they did, but other than Montoya, didn’t fare all that bad. Ryan Newman had the fastest car in the first practice session and ended up sitting on the pole anyway, even after the rain, track dryers and the wait.
Today’s race is going to be fast and intense with long green flag runs and lots of strategy. The problem is, most everything from a strategy standpoint was tried last time, so I don’t think there will be many surprises, if any. It is my opinion the winner will come from the top qualifiers and very likely one of the Chasers. I have a couple of favorites, but I won’t go into that right now. I just know the race is going to be a good one and it could be another fuel mileage battle right down to the wire, just like last week.
From my view, this is one race that Kyle Bush and Jeff Gordon have to finish at or near the top in. Both struggled a bit in Chicago and, Gordon in particular, struggled more than the rest of the twelve Chasers. Sure I know Denny Hamlin had an extremely bad day also, but, with the year he has had, I can’t say it was unexpected. From this fan’s view, he is just having one of those years and it seems no matter what they try, something comes up and they end up with a bad finish. Look, I’m not saying it is over for him because we all know that sometimes racing luck turns on a dime. That could happen for him and even though I know there is that possibility, I just don’t see it happening… but then again….
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 25, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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