Chase Race Five After Thoughts from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanChase race number five was definitely a night some would like to forget. It was a night of surprises and disappointments for several Chasers and an overall good night for others. Had it not been for an accident later in the race, Jimmie Johnson would still be sitting comfortably in the top five just a few points back. Instead, he and his #48 team have their work cut out for them over the next few weeks, just to stay in contention.

Yes, it was an eventful night for the Chasers and there was quite a bit of points position swapping, but that’s what makes this year’s Chase as interesting as it is. From this fan’s view, it just goes to show, when NASCAR makes a change it’s usually good for the sport, no matter what people thought of it when they did it. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I am talking about the changes made to the points system this year. It has probably been the biggest contributor to the excitement level, not only for the Chase itself, but all year long as well.)
Just for a moment, let’s take a look at the bottom four spots in the top twelve…

Unfortunately for Denny Hamlin, I think it is all over but the shouting for him to be in contention for the Cup. He is basically three full races behind the front runners and for him to have any kind of shot at all would mean he has to finish first while the top four or five all finish as close to last as possible at the same time. (Does that sound as impossible to you as it does to me? Yeah… that’s what it thought you’d say.)

Even though it is true Denny Hamlin has been in the last spot for the Chase all along, Jeff Gordon has been doing his level best to take that twelfth spot away from him. I have to admit, I didn’t expect him to be mired this close to finishing last in the top twelve for the Chase, but their luck (or something else) changed when they hit the Chase races and the #24 team just hasn’t been competitive so far.

Ryan Newman hasn’t been that much better and he is another one that has been running consistently in the middle to the back of the pack and just can’t seem to catch a break. It isn’t that his cars haven’t been fast, they just haven’t been fast enough and he hasn’t been able to be there at the end of the races.

Dale Jr is actually moving up in the points, (or maybe I should say the other three I just mentioned are falling back faster than he is,) and, though it is good to see him in the Chase, it would be better to see him be more competitive. Over all, he has had a fairly big turn-around this year, but from my view, he just isn’t strong competitively yet. In fact, I’ll say this, none of the Hendrick cars are looking all that consistent when it comes to being competitive in the Chase and that is unusual. From my view, it looks like the competition has caught up to them along with the fact all of the NASCAR Cup teams are running within tenths of a second of each other from the fastest to the slowest and that makes it hard for anyone to dominate. It only takes being a little off for a weekend and it usually means finishing way back in the pack.

From this fan’s view, for Gordon, Newman and Earnhardt to have any kind of chance at all for winning the Cup, or even coming close, there just about has to be a total reversal of the way they’ve been finishing and the way the top runners have. With five races to go, it is an overwhelming task but not completely out of the realm of possibilities. With Talladega and Martinsville next on the schedule, anything is possible, but, unless something really extraordinary happens over the next two weeks, I’m not getting too excited for them.

Jimmie Johnson is the interesting story for this week. He has a car that could have possibly won and was running… well… okay, at the time of his duel with the wall, (and the wall won , by the way), but a pit road decision for four tires by Chad Knaus seemed to dig them a bit of a hole they never quite dug out of. It seemed to this fan track position was more important than tires and being in dirty air seemed to have more negative consequences than usual for more than just the #48 team. If they hadn’t been in the position they were in, he may have never had his confrontation with the wall. (I know, that sounds rather cliché, but it is true…)

Jimmie Johnson’s hard contact with the wall was a testament to the safety measures NASCAR has put into effect for driver safety over the last ten years, in particular, since Dale Sr’s fatal accident and it was another one that a NASCAR driver walked away from.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dan Wheldon. The racing world lost a great one in the accident at Las Vegas. Although it is a tragedy, it is also a time for all race fans to pull together and support the Wheldon family as best we can. It is also a time for finding out how to make the Indy cars and all race cars safer than they already are. Racing is a dangerous sport and those that are close to it are very familiar with the risks involved. No one should take for granted the safety features built into race cars and we all need to remember and appreciate just how dangerous a sport auto racing is.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 19, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and
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