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After last week’s disastrous start to the Chase for some teams, those same teams are looking for magic to happen at the Magic Mile at Loudon, NH this weekend. With the new points system, making up points lost is a bit harder than it used to be. The answer is still winning but, consistency will still play a part in the last nine races in the Chase.
Jeff Gordon, as everyone already knows, had the worst luck of the twelve Chasers last weekend and has the most to make up in the weeks ahead. Had it not been for that stuck throttle putting him in the wall, (while he was running fourth, by the way), his task could be completely different on this Sunday afternoon. As it is, he needs to finish ahead of the rest of the Chase contenders and that means he needs to win. He has already shown the #24 team has come ready to make a fight of it by taking the pole position but anyone that knows anything about NASCAR knows it will be a struggle and he needs to finish this week off with a win. From this fan’s view, that would make a powerful statement to the rest of the Chase contenders.
Many expect Denny Hamlin to make his own statement this weekend. After running out of gas last weekend, he made the statement that he would win this week at NHMS. He will definitely have to quit talking about what he’s going to do and just start doing it. You might be asking why I say that, but it should be a little more than obvious. He ran out of gas last weekend and finished much further back than he was going to and they had the wrong tire pressures for qualifying this weekend. I don’t know about you but from this fan’s view, I’d say they need to stop making miscues or they just might find themselves at the bottom of the list of the Chase twelve.
If there was ever a time there could be a non-Chaser win one of the Chase races, it could happen this weekend. Kyle Bush starts outside pole next to Jeff Gordon on the front row. Even with all of the bad luck he has had this year, that still makes him one to be watched to take the trip to Victory Lane. I’m not saying it is going to happen and, considering the way things have gone for the #18 team in the later part of the “regular”season, I’m not even willing to say look for it. What I will say in as definitive way as I can, is he has a chance.
The two Toyotas of MWR that are in the Chase need to be included in the mix for this afternoon. Both Martin Truex Jr and Clint Bowyer showed promise in the practice sessions and I just don’t think it would be a good idea to overlook them. Truex Jr not only can win but would like nothing better than to win today. Even though he made the Chase on points, he didn’t score any victories to get into it. It has been a long time since he actually took a trip to Victory Lane and to end up there today would do wonders for him, his team and his owner, Michael Waltrip.
As for Clint Bowyer… well… let’s just say he really likes this track and could quite possibly end up in Victory Lane and cancel out Denny Hamlin’s statement about winning this weekend.
From this fan’s view, I think this could be one of the most competitive races of the Chase. The biggest reason for my saying that is how competitive the field is. After that, I would have to remind everyone it is only a three hundred lap race. To this fan, that means there won’t be a lot of laying back until the final laps. Oh sure, they may not go flat out all the time, but there isn’t a lot of time to make up track position.
In observing the the practice sessions (and the qualifying), it was pretty obvious there was a big difference between the first lap and others. The tires don’t come in for a lap or two at the very minimum and that could make the double file restarts very interesting.
Except for qualifying, Denny Hamlin appears to be the one to watch and if his last race at Loudon says anything, he could easily make up the 30 some spots it would take to put him out front. Of course, we all know he has been fast at the Magic Mile, especially this weekend. As long as his team doesn’t make any mistakes (whether large or small) he should end up with the checkered flag and take a lot of momentum with him into week three. He is confident entering into the Sylvania 300 but his luck can turn on a dime just like it did for several at Chicago. As you can tell, this fan just isn’t willing to throw the trophy his way just yet.
Of all the races in the Chase, the one this afternoon could be the most dramatic of any we will see in the next nine weeks. Of course that is not taking into account what the rest could be like if the points battle gets really tight. If the Chase turns out to be anything like the first 26 races and the uncertainty of the final results entering into Richmond, well, let’s just say Homestead could be very interesting. (Notice I used the two words “could be” more than once here.)
Personally, I think the Championship is still wide open and I, like several others, think Jeff Gordon still has a chance to win his fifth. Of course, there are a bunch of drivers and teams that think they have a chance too and who am I to say they are wrong… ?
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 23, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions