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As it turned out, Kansas was unpredictable for the Cup teams, but that one word can’t describe it for all involved. Some were expected to have good finishes and others hoped to have good finishes, but as the race progressed, things did not go as it appeared they would before the first lap was run. By the end, the points race had changed and there is now a little bit of separation between contenders and what appears to be some “also-rans.” From this fan’s view, I would say there are at least three, and possibly four, words that describe how the Chasers felt about their day. In my opinion those words would be, frustrating, relieved, disappointed and elated.
I know you’re wondering why I think this way about the weekend in Kansas and even I have to admit it was a weekend I didn’t expect. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect some of those outside the twelve Chasers to run upfront, because I did. What I didn’t expect was how some of the top contenders for the Sprint Cup would struggle. As fans, we all knew the Kansas track was a challenging track, but I don’t think even the crew chiefs expected it would be as challenging as it was.
From this fan’s view, Jeff Gordon and his #24 team would have to the most “disappointed” ones of the whole weekend that actually qualified to run the race. Those that didn’t qualify probably were more disappointed, but I don’t think it quite measures up the same way. Unless things go quite a bit differently for them, the #24 team is just about doomed to being an “also ran” in this 2011 Chase. For someone that ran most of the day in the top five, finishing thirty-fourth had to be a devastating disappointment. Sure I know there are six races to go before the season ends, but I do think the lines are being draw for those that can contend and those that can’t and many fans (including myself) are beginning to wonder if Jeff can bounce back.
Denny Hamlin and his #11 JGR team are probably going to finish in twelfth spot for the Chase. I realize there are a few that can still “battle” him for the twelfth spot, (I say that in humor for those that have forgotten how to laugh). So far, I just don’t see his luck changing, at least not any time soon. Of all the Chasers, he is one I think doesn’t fit any of the four words I picked to describe this weekend. It seems he has accepted this year for what it is and is just trying to deal with it.
Now, no one can deny he has had an extremely bad year even though many thought at the beginning of this season he was going to be the one to press Jimmie Johnson for the Cup Championship. Now that we’re winding down to the final six weekends of the season, it is pretty obvious he will be hard pressed to do better than the twelfth spot he now sits in. If nothing else, I guess one could say it has been a humbling year for him. To use a phrase from some motivational folks, “A year like this can either make you better or bitter… You (he) will have to decide which it will be.
Carl Edwards would have to be one of the “elated” ones when it comes to how they ran all day and how they finished. In my pre-race article, I mentioned how unlikely I thought it would be that a Roush Ford would fall like rock through the field, but the #99 Ford of Carl Edwards did exactly that. In fact, at one time it looked like he was going to finish more than one lap down. Crew chief, Bob Osborn was up to the challenge and they did manage to finish in fifth place, although it was more than a struggle to do so.
On the other hand, I’m not sure whether Kevin Harvick fits the “elated” or just simply “relieved” part of this fan’s view, but I do know he was happy to finish sixth and even more happy to be leaving Kansas after the weekend he had.
The two of them could have been much further back in the points but because of where they finished they managed to stay right at the top with one point separating them.
Five time champ, Jimmie Johnson now sits in third place, four points out of first and three out of second. His win was hardly ever in doubt as he led 190 some laps, dominated the afternoon and easily pulled away from everyone, (uh, except Kasey Kahne in the closing laps.) Kasey almost became the spoiler and finished a very strong second when the checkered flag fell on that last lap. I would say both of these teams were a couple more of the “elated” ones when the race was over.
When it comes to the “frustrated” ones, there were several and not all of them were in the Chasers category. Martin Truex Jr would definitely qualify as one of the frustrated. He was running very well when he broke an axle on a pit stop ending his hope for a decent finish. As it was, he finished thirty-sixth, two spots behind Jeff Gordon, but then he isn’t in the Chase. In my opinion, he only qualifies for one of the “frustrated” ones on the day.
The last two I will mention would be Kurt Bush and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Both had high expectations going into the race and both came away “frustrated” with lack luster finishes.
From this fan’s view, the next six races can go one of two ways. The ones that have seemed to be able to finish well even though running bad could begin to see their luck change and the reverse happen which would just tighten up the points and put two or three of the teams back in the thick of the battle.
Or, things could just continue on as they have and the separation in points will continue. I don’t know, but it could get exciting… don’t you think?
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 11, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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