It’s Down to Two and Desperation For A Few from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
Atlanta Motor Speedway means there are two races left to make the Chase for 2012. There is a key word that comes to mind when this fan thinks of this weekend at Atlanta and that would be “desperation.” It’s not a word you haven’t heard others talk about this week, but the fact is, it looms large in the minds of at least six drivers and it will over these next two races.

Several big names in the Cup series desperately need to win this weekend, next weekend or both and there is one big problem facing them… They have to have the wins or they probably won’t be in the Chase. In reality, winning isn’t the only way a few of those could make it in but it sure would make a big difference in their chances should they win one or both of the next two races.

It is hard for me to believe that names like Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon may not be in the mix for taking the Sprint Cup Championship this year. Of course, when it comes to these two in particular, they don’t have to win, but, there would certainly have to be a lot of circumstances that would have to line up perfectly for them to make it in without winning.

Kyle Bush is another that sits in a precarious position. He is actually in 13th position but has the 12th place for the Chase because he has a win and Carl Edwards does not. The interesting thing about all three of these is they have struggled almost all year. Mostly through no fault of their own, they have been inconsistent in their finishes. All three have faced circumstances that have caused them frustration and put them in the position they are in. Sometimes it was just bad decisions made and other times it was engine problems or some other type of mechanical failure.

Be those as they may, all three have shown they can run up front and they have had fast cars but have either finished in the top ten or far from it. As we all know, inconsistency is not rewarded all that well by the NASCAR points system. Regularly running up front during a race, leading or running in the top five for a lot of laps and then falling to the middle or the rear of the pack just doesn’t cut it with the competition as tight as it is in Cup these days.

Denny Hamlin is one that could very well throw a wrench into the works in Atlanta this weekend. He looked awfully strong in practice and that could spell trouble for the ones that need a win to make it in. If he does take the win it could mean the end of hope for at least five of the six in the top twenty right now if for no other reason than the way the points line up.

I think that is what makes this race at Atlanta tonight such an important one. There are several game changers that can happen and it can either mean someone can just about lock up the twelfth spot or it can go down to the wire at Richmond next weekend (which is what lot of people think is how it is going to go down.) From this fan’s view, it is possible it could go down to the final lap of next week’s race and it is also possible it could all be decided by points instead of wins. At this point, I don’t think anyone knows what is going to happen, but I do know tonight’s race in Atlanta will give us a better outlook for just how tight and how dramatic next week at Richmond will be.

As I said earlier, Denny Hamlin and just about anyone else in the top ten can interfere with the hopes of the main six trying to take that second wildcard spot in the Chase. Of course those already in the top ten are trying to gain bonus points and that means they are going to be “hammer down” to finish at, or as close to the front as they possibly can. Right now, there are four of the top ten that have three wins so at the reset when the Chase actually begins, they will line up according to the points they have in addition to the bonus points.

Tonight’s race at Atlanta is a toss up as to which of the Cup teams might win (at least from this fan’s view.) I realize it could be someone in the top ten because they have most of the wins for the year and the next ten spots have the rest of the wins and I guess that is the way it should be by this time in the season. I think that is what makes picking a winner for the race tonight so difficult. With at least all of the top 35 teams able to win on any given week, picking just one to win tonight isn’t easy for this fan.

Of course you know, I do have a few I would like to see win and a few I would rather didn’t win (at least tonight.) I would really like to see the plot thicken for that twelfth Spot and it very well could. Atlanta is known for things happening near the end of a race and I don’t expect anything to be different tonight.

From my view, I think it will probably be a Hendrick Chevy but I do have to admit the Fords looked very strong (and everyone knows the Roush Fords always seem to run strong at Atlanta .)

My problem is the Toyotas… whether it be MWR or JGR, all of them have looked strong at one time or another this weekend. It could be Denny Hamlin, Kyle Bush or even Clint Bowyer or Martin Truex Jr. Any one of them could make the trip to Victory Lane tonight but I’m still sticking with my original choice of a Hendrick Chevy finishing out front. Now… which of those Hendrick Chevys??? Well, that’s a whole different thing…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 1, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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