NASCAR at Fontana from Just A Fan’s View

Rusty NormanIf you only looked at the qualifying times and the way the cars will line up on Sunday afternoon at Fontana, you would see some different names at the top of the order and a lot of well known big names in the middle to the back of the field. Now as surprising as this will sound, this is one of the times the qualifying will be totally useless except for having a better pit stall than someone else. The reason, as this fan sees it, is because of the rains that fell in California on Friday, before the practice and qualifying sessions.

You can tell by the looks of the lineup some teams hit it and some didn’t. That’s not to say the ones that qualified faster than the better known names don’t deserve to be where they are, I just raise the question of whether or not it will make a great deal of difference on Sunday.

Just look at where two of the top three finishers from last week’s race qualified. Carl Edwards finished second last weekend and qualified eighteenth this weekend. Jimmie Johnson finished third last weekend and qualified sixteenth for Fontana. Of course last week’s winner, Kyle Bush, qualified eighth but he would say qualifying is just something they have to do and not to pay much attention to it, (and you already know what I think of qualifying.)

Looking at the speeds after the final practice session on Saturday it should be a little easier to tell a little more about how the competition will fair on Sunday, but the way the season has been going, I’m not so sure that will be the case.

While we’re talking about qualifying, I guess now is a good time to mention how NASCAR’s change to how qualifying order is established. From this fan’s view, the new way of setting that order and it does make the teams try to get better established times during practice. Usually qualifying later in the session is the best time to try and get a faster time. Although that isn’t always the case, it has proven to be one of the better rule or procedural changes and makes qualifying much more interesting. I wasn’t sure about it when they first mentioned it but now, I like it. Say what you will, but NASCAR has been making a lot of good decisions over the last couple of years and it has been a definite plus for the competitive side.

Since this is the fifth week of racing for 2011, that means that next week the field will be set a bit differently than it is during these first five weeks. For those that end up no longer in the top 35 after this weekend, they will have to qualify on time for the most part. For some, that will something they haven’t had to do in a while. There is no one in jeopardy of having to do that right at the moment, but all it takes is one more bad race and some of those on the edge will be in that predicament. Some that are close to the edge are, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano who are 29th and 30th in the points.

As I have observed the different drivers and teams this weekend, it does appear several are struggling with their setups and although it doesn’t appear they will do well, they will very likely find a way to get up towards the front. Although I don’t know who might win, it is definitely another one of those weekends where one or more of the teams may hit on the right combination and just have to tweak on the car slightly to keep up with the changing track condition. From this fan’s view, I really think the winner will come from the top fifteen from the final practice; (Wow, I’m really sticking my neck out there, huh?) If you want me to be a bit more specific, this could actually be the week we see someone in Victory Lane that has never actually been there before in Cup.

Even though I don’t really want to outright pick a possible winner, I do have a few choices as to who might win. I wouldn’t count out Dale Jr although he was only about 18th in the late practice. Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Kyle Bush were all fast in that practice also, but, there was a lot of slippin’ and slidin’ goin’ on and a lot of drivers unhappy with their cars after practice was over.

Adding to all of the uneasiness, there is an interesting side note to overnight weather possibly dumping a half inch of rain or more and washing away all of the rubber from the track for the start of the race tomorrow. One thing is for certain; this has been a very interesting weekend for the teams and it looks as though the challenges aren’t going to let up until the end of the race.

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 26, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

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