NASCAR At Richmond After Chatter: Once Again In 2010 The Short Track Doesn’t Disappoint…

Rusty NormanSaturday night at Richmond International Raceway… (Wow, that sounds almost ominous doesn’t it?) It was a night of colorful cars, lots of horsepower, excited fans and two dominating cars (and one of them slightly better than the other, almost the whole race.) If anyone thinks they know what has made Nascar racing the best it has been in years, let them speak up now, (or I’ll have to speak for them)…

In fact, I will anyway…

NASCAR racing is the best it has been in years and the reason for it has nothing to do with spoilers, tires, horsepower or even those bright and shiny cars that sparkle and reflect the track lights like diamonds in a brightly lit showcase. (Wow, that sounded impressive didn’t it?) No… it has nothing to do with any of those things. The one thing that has made Nascar Cup racing what it is right now is… (wait for it… wait for it)…

Yeah, that’s right, in case you haven’t guessed already, it’s the double file restart that puts all of the top cars on any given race day (or night) together in tight formation no matter how far ahead the lead car may have been. It not only closes the gap, which is nothing new, but it puts all of the top competitors in close proximity to each other. Oh, I  guess there is one other thing that enhances the double file restart and that would be the addition of multiple green-white-checkered finishes, except this night in Richmond, the addition of the G-W-C wasn’t needed.

There is hardly any way to figure who will win with the double-file restart and, when you figure in up to three green-white-checkered tries for a finish, well, that makes the “figurin” even harder. I’m not sure if anyone is going to keep track, but, this rule will almost certainly shorten the life-span of many a crew chief. No, I’m not trying to be funny; I’m just looking at reality. It has never been harder for the crew chief to make the right call during a caution at the end of a race than it is right now. I sure don’t envy them their job, and the critics (I like to call them, armchair crew chiefs) have plenty to say about their calls if their guy doesn’t win. (Kinda funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s quite a bit like Monday morning quarterbacking.) Of course, anybody can make the right call after the race or game is over, can’t they.

Admittedly, a lot of things have to go right for a driver to come from three to four rows back and take the victory in three to six laps.

  • One, they have to be in the right spot to be able to move up instead of getting stuck in traffic.
  • Two, they have to have the best handling car in the short run.
  • Third and probably most importantly, they have to have a fast car.

It only takes being two to three tenths of a second faster than the rest to make the pass and pull far enough away to take the checkers away from someone who was obviously faster before the caution flag came out. (Hey, that’s just racing.)

There were four cars that were fast enough to win on Saturday night when it came down to the final laps and that would be, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Bush. Kyle Bush did have the car that led the most laps and even though he struggled and fell back in the middle of the race, his crew chief managed to get the handle back for him at the right time along with the help of the double file restart and it paid off with a trip to Cup Victory Lane for the first time in 2010 for Kyle Bush. It also was the first Cup victory for his crew chief, Dave Rogers which should put a lot of the criticism of him to rest, (at least for the moment.)

It is this fan’s opinion that Jeff Gordon has to be one of the most frustrated drivers in Cup right now, (not to mention his fans.) Just taking a quick look at the possibilities on the year, he could have already had four or five victories. He hasn’t always had the fastest car but he has been in good position to win if circumstances had happened just slightly different. As it is, he is solidly in the top twelve for now. (By the way, did anybody notice Jimmie Johnson struggled the whole night and though he and Jeff started next to each other at the beginning of the race, they weren’t really in the same zip code most of the night?)

It’s just an observation (and it isn’t unique only to this fan) but the on-track competition, (uh, that would be “racing” for any newbies reading this) has been some of the closest and most exciting NASCAR fans have seen in a while. Now, I realize that 2009 was a great turn around year competition-wise too, but 2010 has definitely been a notable year and most NASCAR fans everywhere are taking notice. To this fan, it couldn’t have come at a better time judging how difficult the last couple of years have been for everybody everywhere and I applaud NASCAR for doing what they have always done best. No matter what people think of their decision making processes, it appears they usually do the right thing for the competitors and especially, the fans…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 3, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

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