Chasers Must Tame the Monster Mile This Weekend from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
For those not in the top four or five of the Chase standings, their job is to tame the Monster Mile this weekend at Dover. Of course that doesn’t mean those in the top four or five don’t have the same job but, their’s isn’t as critical as the rest. Unfortunately, after only two Chase races there is a growing separation between the top five and the rest (okay, it’s actually six). Also unfortunate… that separation is harder to make up than ever before because of the new point system.

If you don’t believe that, just look at how little ground Jeff Gordon made up last weekend. Even after finishing third, he only made up two points on the leaders. That means he is still in twelfth place and 45 points behind. He did make up some ground on those in seventh to eleventh, but because of that devastating Chicago finish after contact with the wall, he has to go all out to make gains on the top spots. He cannot afford any more problems, he has to finish in the top three from here on out (and even that may not be enough.)

The Toyotas of JGR and MWR are looking awfully strong for this afternoon’s race and there are a couple of non-Chasers that are starting in a position that could mean a non-Chaser winner. Just so you won’t be in suspense about which drivers I’m talking about, it would be Sam Hornish Jr, Kyle Bush and Ryan Newman. Any of these three could take the trip to Victory Lane if they can tame the Monster in front of the rest of the field. I think it will make the Chase more interesting if there are two or three non-Chase winners in the next eight races but then, that’s just me.

Anyway, getting back to those Toyotas… Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr both qualified in the top five and would like nothing better than to come away from the weekend with a win for Michael Waltrip. In fact, I think they would be very happy for themselves too. Both of them would like nothing better than to shake up the competition by finishing up front, possibly even a one – two finish. (Wow! Wouldn’t that shake up the rest of the field?)

Of course, everyone knows Kyle Bush would just like to finish a race on the lead lap for a change. Between him and Jeff Gordon, I don’t know which would qualify for the “Worst Racing Luck in a Season” award. Both have shown up week after week with strong race cars but definitely not great racing luck. (In other words, if it could go wrong, it has gone wrong quite often for both of them.) Kyle qualified fifth and I know he would like nothing better than to dominate the field (including his team mate, Denny Hamlin) all afternoon.

Speaking of Denny Hamlin… he qualified on the pole for today’s race and he is very confident he is going to perform well. What a big turn around for the JGR #11 Fed Ex driver from last year. Personally, I don’t think it’s all is because of his newest crew chief, Darian Grubb, but, I am willing to admit he does have a little more than something to do with it. (Really, this fan wonders if Tony Stewart is having second thoughts right about now. Oh sure, he’s in the top five like Hamlin but he doesn’t look near as strong as the #11 JGR Toyota.)

From this fan’s view, Denny Hamlin is probably one of three top contenders at the moment. I just wonder how he might handle some of the setbacks his team mate, Kyle Bush has had to face in recent weeks. I’m not so sure he will exude the confidence he does right now. Actually, at least in this fan’s opinion, he hasn’t really had to face much adversity in the Chase so far. One wonders how he will handle some major failures over a couple of weeks in row. If his fortunes change or become more challenging over the next few weeks, this fan wonders if he is seasoned enough to take it on the chin, tough it out and turn it all around. (However, as strong as he has been running, I do admit those are some pretty big “ifs.”)

The Roush Fords are mysteriously silent so far in the Chase. Between Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, there just hasn’t been much noise made from the Ford camp. They seem to be lacking speed so far and they picked a bad time to be in a slump. Of course, it only takes a few hundred laps to turn everything around and whose to say it can’t happen today at the Monster?

In all honesty though, here’s what this fan expects at Dover this afternoon. I expect the Monster to be sent whimpering off into the sunset after being tamed by many of the the Chasers to lick his wounds until next year. I don’t know who will win but I do know there are several that are up to the task.

Whether it will be someone everybody expects I’m not yet ready to say. What I am ready to say is that I think one of the Chasers is going to take the win this afternoon and it very well could be someone named, Jeff Gordon. This fan actually thinks he still has a chance to take his fifth Championship. (And that’s not to mention I can think of nothing more dramatic than him coming all the way from where he did before the Chase started to holding the Sprint Cup Championship trophy up in Victory Lane at Homestead in November.)

But then again, people always have called me a dreamer. Be that as it may, just remember when it does happen as I say… I told you so…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 30, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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