The NASCAR teams wanting to make the Chase in 2010 have to perform well this weekend here at ChicagoLand and they have to do it… now! I hate to state the obvious, but, teams that are just in or just outside the top twelve must begin to perform consistently for the next 8 races or they can kiss their chances goodbye. In particular, those in 9th to 15th in the points are running out of time and the odds are beginning to turn against them unless they do.
As I stated a couple of weeks ago, it is definitely “crunch time” for all of the top teams and they cannot afford the luxury of taking it easy. Oh sure, there are teams that have a good cushion of points, but if they have three bad race weeks in a row, they could just as easily be on the outside looking in. Kevin Harvick is the one sitting with the largest cushion and for him to move from first place to outside the top twelve would take at least three race weekends, (not to mention he would probably have to finish last all three of those weeks.)
There is a strong bunch of drivers starting at the front of the lineup tonight. Once again Jamie McMurray sits on the pole and Jimmie Johnson is right next to him. Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle make up row two followed by Sam Hornish Jr and Jeff Gordon in row three.
It is this fan’s opinion that anyone in the top ten starting positions have a very good chance of taking the checkered flag for tonight’s race. That’s not to rule out anyone else, but barring the unforeseen this is a track that definitely favors the faster qualifiers if for no other reason than track position. It is also my opinion they must maintain their positions and not fall too far back or it could spell disaster for their hopes of finishing up front.
One thing about ChicagoLand that hardly changes is the fact it is a fast track that has a habit of making it hard for the teams to figure it out. So far, it has proved out hardly any one driver or team dominates here. As the night progresses, it will be very important for the crew chiefs to keep up with the track conditions from the drop of the green flag to the possibilities of green-white-checkered finishes.
You may ask, why do they have to be “on it” from the drop of the green flag? I will just point out, first practice was in the heat of the day as was the second. Qualifying took place late afternoon and early evening and there was a noticeable increase in speed. The race tonight will start even later than qualifying finished. The crew chiefs first have to get their cars right for the start and they have to make absolutely sure they have a good plan for adjustments that take them to the end.
Sam Hornish Jr seems to be completely comfortable with both the ChicagoLand track and his Penske Dodge. After all, he performed well at this track in open wheel racing and appears to be attacking it with confidence. Will that transfer into a visit to Victory Lane in a NASCAR stock car by the end of the night? I don’t know, but the possibility does have to be considered.
This could also be the week the Fords actually have good finishes and possibly even win. Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards all seemed happy with their cars during practice in race trim. That could prove to be a good thing and could put one of them in Victory Lane at the end of the Lifelock.com 400. That is “if” they can keep up with the Chevys.
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 10, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
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