It’s One and Done At Richmond

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Rusty Norman

Two things are certain for tonight’s race at Richmond. There won’t be anybody holding back that has a chance to make it into the Chase with a win and there won’t be anyone that’s already in holding back either – they’ve got nothing to lose. Those that are already in by wins will be looking to gain the bonus points and improve their starting spot for the Chase. For those that aren’t in? Well… let’s just say they’ve got nothing to lose either and, if they do win, they’re in! It will definitely be one and done at Richmond for them…

A lot is riding on the race tonight, particularly for those that don’t have a chance unless they win. Three spots remain and, if there isn’t a first time winner for the 2014 season tonight, those three spots will be decided by points. That means those that are already in by points can’t afford to have a bad race, like say, Clint Bowyer did last weekend. Few thought his 31 point cushion would be depleted so quickly but Atlanta quickly eroded his almost sure spot in the Chase to an almost have to win to get in at Richmond.

Once again this weekend tires have been an issue. Not because of tire failures but because Goodyear brought a different tire than was used earlier in the season. Many teams have found it a challenge to get a handle on this one and it has made for an interesting time in preparing cars for the race tonight. That doesn’t mean they haven’t figured them out but it does mean there are some unknowns for tonight’s race. I don’t think anyone will really know what they have until the sun goes down.

Another thing that has been happening lately is the amount of trouble some of the teams have had making it through the tech inspection before qualifying and race time. The biggest problem this week was the amount of rear caster allowed by NASCAR and an apparent difference between the way the teams measure it and the way the machine sees it at inspection time. It may mean nothing but it has been a problem at more than one track lately. Those that had trouble meeting the proper tolerance may struggle a bit tonight or… maybe not.

Brad Keselowski won another pole and the two Penske teams have been on the front row a lot this season. That doesn’t always translate into a good race performance but it does say they have an advantage when it comes to qualifying. In this fan’s view, qualifying doesn’t say much about how the race will go but it usually means a better choice in pit locations which usually gives certain advantages to the better qualifiers. Whether or not that means anything for Keselowski in tonight’s race remains to be seen but it very well could.

Kevin Harvick was the fastest in practice when it came to running consistent multiple lap times. Since he is starting in the fourth position, it could mean he could have another dominating performance such as the one in Atlanta (even though he didn’t win.) Whatever the case for Harvick, he looks like he and his team are well prepared for moving into the new Chase elimination scenario. This fan expects he will one of the ones to beat for the Championship when it comes to Homestead.

From this fan’s view, it is likely that the cream will once again rise to the top and those that have struggled will continue to struggle. That could mean that a previous winner will take the trip to Victory Lane tonight and some that had hopes of making the Chase will find those hopes dashed by the end of the Federated Auto Parts 400.

Whatever happens tonight, once again NASCAR has proved they know what they are doing when it comes to making the sport we all love more interesting and exciting for us fans. There were times this year that this fan wondered about that but, once again, The sanctioning body has proven they do have the best interests of the fans and the sport in mind when they make changes. I have to admit, when they changed the qualifying format to what it is now, I was skeptical.

NASCAR was not opposed to making tweaks to make it work even better and, as it stands right now, I think it is one of the best moves they could’ve made. Qualifying is more exciting than ever and with the emphasis on winning they instituted this year, the racing is as intense as it has ever been. As a long time fan and former racer, I applaud NASCAR for the job they do and have done.

When it comes to this final race before the Chase, there are a lot of unknowns. This could prove to be one of the most dramatic and competitive races we’ve seen in a while. There is a lot riding on performance and who will the last three to make it into the Chase. I expect there will be a lot of different strategies and some of them are probably going to be questioned at the time they happen. What will be interesting (at least to this fan) is to see how those strategies play out throughout the night. Frankly, I would want to be a crew chief tonight…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 6, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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