NASCAR Cup Teams Take It To Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The NASCAR Cup Teams take it to Phoenix this weekend in the final race in the West coast swing. If anyone was expecting it to be “business as usual,” well… perhaps they should rethink. There are a lot of things different since the last time the Cup Teams visited Phoenix and it could have a great impact on how the racing goes for this Spring race and possibly the gathering of information for the finale at the end of the season.

So, what are the obvious changes for this trip to Phoenix? Well… there are several big ones and they need to be considered for the Sunday afternoon race.

First, there is the big difference in downforce. The most notable change is the size of the spoiler on the rear of the cars. It is much smaller. In fact, it is almost unnoticeable from a short distance. Compared to the one used last weekend, it is a difference of night and day and, from this fan’s view, the difference in downforce has affected how the cars handle. Since all of the teams have to contend with the difference, they may all struggle in the same way adapting to it.

Second, there is more horsepower. More horsepower means faster throttle response and could mean faster trouble when and if it raises its ugly head. Now, it is true that more horsepower isn’t always a better thing but, with the changes to the downforce it just may make things more interesting, especially when they get together in groups. It may also make the restarts even more exciting especially when they enter that first turn, two or more wide. At Phoenix two, three, four and more wide is nothing unusual in the past.

Third, there is the new tire compound Goodyear brought for the downforce changes and other reasons. It should make for very interesting racing also. Every time they make a change to the compounds, it does seem things on the track get more interesting when it comes to grip and the ever-changing strategies that happen every week.

Although there are other things that have changed since the NASCAR Cup Teams last visited the Phoenix track, one thing stands out pretty clear. Of course, that would be the improved performance of the Chevys over their last two seasons.

I realize it may too soon to be making any rash statements about the Chevys and their performance but, looking at the first race weekends, they are showing themselves to be much more competitive and, as a life-long Chevy fan, I have to admit it makes me happy and gives me hope they will continue to make waves throughout the 2020 NASCAR Cup season.

Last year the Toyotas and Fords really had the upper hand over the Chevys most of the time. In particular, the Toyotas ruled and won over half of the races last season. When it comes to looking at Phoenix from last year, they did kind of dominate and not just at Phoenix. This season, however, they do appear to be struggling. Well, at least somewhat considering how they were last year. I’m not saying they’ve totally lost it… I’m just saying they “appear” to be struggling a bit if you can say that, after a Toyota won the Daytona 500 and finished second last weekend at the Auto Club Speedway, and consider that to be struggling. I do think there are many teams that would like to struggle in like fashion.

There are many that think Alex Bowman could win this one at Phoenix this weekend but, I’m not going to jump on that band wagon just yet. It is true he has momentum and confidence on his side but, I think the competition is pretty stiff for this weekend and, although I would like to see him win two in a row, I’m not so sure the Chevys are that strong yet.

Well, to clarify, I’m not so sure the other makes are struggling all that much in this early part of the season. Yes, it is true the Chevys are showing great improvements. It is also true the Toyotas aren’t performing as many expected but they are managing to show some strength even though losing a little in speed. The same goes for the Fords. They, in particular the SHR Fords, have shown they have the speed to start with but seem to fade at the end, much as the Chevys did over the last year or so. This race at Phoenix may give a better idea of what’s going on in all three camps and what to expect throughout the rest of the season.

As for me and from this fan’s view, I will just be happier when Jimmie Johnson wins and puts himself in the playoffs so he can go out competing for the 2020 Championship, maybe even taking his eighth. I know that may be asking for a lot, but then again, it is what I would like to see. You see, it’s my view and I’m sticking with it…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 7, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

NASCAR Cup Teams Take It To Fontana from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The NASCAR Cup Series teams take on the mile-and-a-half Auto Club Speedway oval at Fontana this weekend. It is the second of three races in the swing out west for them and it is the second real test of the newly designed Chevy Camaros. Oh sure, they were tested last weekend at Las Vegas but this is a little bit different. Some are saying last weekend showed they have improved but this weekend will show if there is consistency in the improvements.

In keeping with the Chevy improvements theme, I’d like to take a look back at the last two races for just a moment or two. You may or may not agree with me but, considering which cars won the Daytona 500 and the Pennzoil 400, I’m not so sure the best car actually won those races. Oh, I know what you’ll say. It’s not the way you run, it’s the way you finish. Or maybe you’re one of those that’s says you have to put yourself in position to win and take the breaks as they come.

Believe me, this is not a cut against Ryan Newman or Ryan Blaney at Daytona. Either one of them could have won and instead Denny Hamlin did. Before circumstances turned against him, Chase Elliott may have won. (Well, at least that’s this fan’s opinion.) He was also the dominate car at Las Vegas, but once again, a little bad luck on a tire change near the end of the 400 took him out of contention for the win and instead Joey Logano won. both Hamlin and Logano pretty much get a free ride into the playoffs and neither one was the best car on those two days other than finishing first.

Now I know it’s asking for trouble when I talk about what coulda, shoulda or woulda happened in those past two races. I know that Daytona can be a crap shoot right down to the very last inch of a race and I do realize that Ryan Blaney and Ryan Newman had the same chance at winning as did Denny Hamlin. The same goes for Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman at Las Vegas. If they hadn’t pitted on that last caution, maybe… just maybe, they would have beaten Joey Logano instead of watching him drive away. I can hear the armchair drivers out there saying, “that’s just racing!” but it still gets to me how “racing luck” plays such a big part these days.

Okay, enough of races in the past this year. I’m still interested in how the Chevys are going to do in this one at the Auto Club Speedway.

I guess it’s pretty obvious, I’m a Chevy fan. I have owned Chevys almost exclusively all my driving life, I used to race Chevys when I was racing. I do like them and I did like the way my Chevy racecars ran and, I have to admit, I liked winning with them. When it comes to NASCAR, I am still a Chevy fan and I guess I am biased toward Chevys and how they do, can and will perform in the NASCAR schedule when I watch or write about the races.

This weekend I was pleased to see Alex Bowman having the fastest laps in the two practice sessions and it gives me hope for the race on Sunday that a Chevy might make the trip to Victory Lane. Not just Alex Bowman but Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, William Byron and yes, even Kurt Bush. After the last two years in particular, I long to see the Chevys show up and be the ones to beat every weekend. I know that might be lot to ask in these times but, I have to be honest, would like to see it again.

When it comes to the race this weekend, the Fords look to be strong and Chevys have speed. Looking at it from the sidelines, either of those makes could end up winning the Auto Club 400. I’m not so sure the Toyotas weren’t working on long run speeds. With the way the tires drop off in a run, long run speed is going to be important to all of the teams and I’m just not sure if the Toyotas have shown all they have yet this weekend. I guess we’ll find out when it’s over. After all, this is the NASCAR Cup Series and anybody could win this one and it could be a Ford, a Chevy OR a Toyota.

Okay, now for a little bit more honesty and admitted bias for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday afternoon. I would really like to see Jimmie Johnson win this one. After all, it is his last race at his hometown track in regular Cup racing. I know it may be a pipedream but I would really like to see him in the final four going for the Championship at the end of the year. Who knows, this may be his week to end his winless streak and make a move into the playoffs early if he does so. I’m not going come right out and say he will win this one but it sure wouldn’t bother me at all if he did…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 29, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Vegas Is Next For NASCAR Cup 2020 from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The NASCAR Cup teams take it to the track at Vegas this weekend. Considering the wreck-fest we saw at Daytona last weekend, the Vegas track may seem a little tame. Oh, I’m not saying there won’t be any action. I’m just saying there won’t be as many wrecked racecars as there were when Speed Weeks was finished at Daytona. I’m sure that will be a welcome relief to the team owners since they were the ones that saw much of their monetary investment in their Super Speedway cars end up in the dumpster or in a junk yard. From this fan’s view, the race may pay well but it also costs a lot to try for the win and watch much of that investment end up as a crumpled mess.

Of course, one thing that wasn’t wasted when it comes to investments was the investment NASCAR has made over the last several years concerning driver safety. Ryan Newman’s accident coming to the checkered flag could have turned out much different IF there hadn’t been the continuing investment in making the racecars safer for the drivers.

As a former local stock car owner/driver, I can say Ryan didn’t exactly walk away, but we are all happy and thankful he did walk out of the hospital a couple of days later with no visible signs of the horrific accident he was involved in. I will say this though… I’ll bet he was hurting from hitting the safer barrier along with the wild ride and being hit by Corey Lajoie. I’ve never had an accident while going near two hundred miles an hour but I have had a couple of accidents racing at our local short tracks and, from one in particular, I hurt for at least a week… and that was at less than a hundred miles per hour…

Oh well, enough about Daytona (and me…) What about Vegas??

I have to say, my takeaway from the first two practices at Vegas was a little mixed. The Fords in usual fashion for Vegas looked fast in the first practice and, surprising to this fan, the Chevys looked to be making headway, speed wise, in the final practice on Friday. I’m undecided about the Toyotas if for no other reason than I’m not sure they were showing all they had. It is possible they were and that all three makes are fairly evenly matched for this weekend but, I’m not so sure they weren’t leaving something on the table. In Vegas terms, I guess you could say they weren’t showing all their cards yet.

Since I am writing this before qualifying, I’m not considering how the different teams might perform in their qualifying laps. When it comes to this weekend, I really think the final practice session told much of what needs to be known for the race Sunday afternoon. Sure, I admit pit stall locations are important but, in my opinion, the lap speed consistency over a long run is more important. It is likely there could be long green flag runs in this one and consistent lap times will rule the day, especially if it leads to running up front.

When it came down to it, the Chevys and the Fords looked pretty good as far as consistent lap times. In fact, that is what all of the teams seemed to be working on. That in itself could make this a very interesting race could mean the racing will be tight, two and three wide or more much of the time. If there are restarts, it should prove to be very interesting.

Once again, the Stewart/Haas Fords looked to be the ones to watch and all of the SHR teams looked strong, at least from this fan’s view. Clint Bowyer showed a lot of speed early along with his teammates Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick. I’m not ignoring the rookie in their group but I think more time is required to see how he will do.

Kurt Bush looked very strong, especially in the final practice and, barring something really unexpected, I can’t rule out the possibility of him being in the hunt in the final laps at his hometown. Kyle Larson could also be right up there at the end, too and it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise to this fan.

So… let’s see. The Fords look fast, the Toyotas look fast and the Chevys look fast. Whatever could that mean when it comes down to the final laps? Could it mean someone unexpected could win or will it be one of the past winners? I’m really not too sure and I’m not sure if it will be a Chase Elliott, a Jimmie Johnson, a Kevin Harvick or a Clint Bowyer. How about Kyle Bush, Martin Truex Jr, Kurt Bush, Brad K, Denny Hamlin or Joey Logano.

From this fan’s view, if ever there was a hard race to choose a favorite for winning, this could be one. I’m thinking the Chevys are going to make a good showing but I’m not sure at all who might win. All I know is it is going to worth watching to find out…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 22, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The 2020 Daytona 500 from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Let’s see now… There’s a lot of things different for this 2020 NASCAR Cup season opener at Daytona. More horsepower, faster closing rates and a repeat learning curve for blocking. In the course of events at Daytona this last week, some learned that blocking can be a risk not to be taken – at least not multiple blocks. Some learned that lesson the hard way and others learned form those that took to trying to block with disastrous results. Some were fortunate and others… well… not so much.

One thing that can be said about The Clash, and I don’t know of anyone that disagrees, there was a lot of money lost in just the wrecked cars. I think the only one that had no noticeable damage was the number three of Austin Dillon. How he managed that is hard to say but, it was obvious at the end of the night, the lack of damage didn’t guarantee him a win. In fact, Erik Jones had a torn up racecar and won (of course, with the help of his teammate, Denny Hamlin.) But then, you already know all of this since it has been the talking points of just about everyone since the wreck-fest called, The Bush Clash.

So, much to your relief I’m sure, I won’t continue down that path. I just want to give a little bit of my opinion on the Clash and the Duels and, of course, my expectations for the Daytona 500.

First of all, The Clash was interesting but made very obvious the things that might have worked last year, weren’t going to work this year. One of the most important lessons learned – at least from this fan’s view – was the same thing Brad Keselowski complained about, especially last season and that was blocking. He mentioned he was not going to let up but instead move them if they were in his way because of their blocking. Now, we all know the drivers are going to block but this season, with the increased horsepower and the faster closing rate, they may not be blocking as much. Well, at least they may limit the number of times they try blocking as a maneuver to keep someone behind them. I guess we’ll see how that goes for them.

Hey, I understand blocking is a natural impulse for a driver to keep someone from passing but, the multiple blocks once employed by many may not be used as much as they were in the recent past on the Super Speedways simply because they end up wrecking or getting wrecked.

Another thing that has come to light from The Clash and the Duels is that the changes made to the Chevys in the front and rear may have solved some of their performance problems. We actually saw them running up front and running competitively during both the Clash and the Duels. Of course, we know the Daytona 500 and the way the Chevys run on the Super Speedways is not uncommon but even this old Chevy and NASCAR fan is happy to see there is possibly some hope for them running up front and possibly even winning some races again. It is hoped that they will do so on the mile and a half tracks, too.

On a personal note, it was good to see the Chevys, in particular the Hendrick Chevys, showing some muscle again. I was also happy to see Jimmie Johnson looking like he could run with the best of them once again. It was also good to see Alex Bowman and William Byron showing they could run up front.

Look… I don’t live in a dream world and I know this particular article/podcast is weighted heavily towards the Chevys. That’s because of the three makes in NASCAR, the Chevys have suffered the most over the last two years because of their body style. Now that those have been at least somewhat corrected, it looks like they might be more competitive come race-time.

I kind of shy away from making predictions for how races are going to go and how they might end in recent years but I want to make one here and now. I believe a Chevy is going to win the 500 and it could even be Jimmie Johnson. Now that might seem like a real stretch but… I don’t even care if it does turn out the way I just mentioned. If it does, I think I would be amazing to see Jimmie Johnson start off the season with a win and the Hendrick teams to finish in the top spots. Will it happen? All I can say is, it could!! …

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 15, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The 2020 NASCAR Bush Clash from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well… it’s that time again. Time for NASCAR to take it to the track at Daytona. For many, it has been a long wait and for others… well… let’s just say time flies… As for me, the time has flown by and I just can’t believe it’s time for another NASCAR season to begin. Not that I’m not looking forward to it… I just can’t believe it’s time to go for 38 weeks of racing again already.

There are a lot of things I hear people repeat over and over again and I guess I’ll join the crowd and say a few of them. First is the obvious statements of the year we are entering dealing with 2020. Some have said it is a year of clearer vision (of course relating to 20/20 vision.) Then there is the fact we are entering into a new decade. Some say it is a time of new beginnings or possibly even a new start for some and the end of an era for others.

One thing is certain. The 2020 season is starting off with a lot of changes. The Chevys are starting off with a new Camaro. (Well… at least, re-designed at the front and rear.) The Penske teams have swapped drivers and crew chiefs around and it remains to be seen how well that works for them. The SHR teams have welcomed a new driver and let Daniel Suarez go. Jimmie Johnson is making this season his last full-time season racing full time in NASCAR Cup.

Even the cars have a new rules package, different than last year’s at Daytona. That should make life interesting for some, or all, of the drivers competing in the Clash and yes, even in the 500 next weekend. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of changes and there is a lot going on all around the NASCAR Cup garage as well as with the NASCAR Cup teams.

So far, there is a lot going on but not a lot to talk about when it comes to the Bush Clash taking place this weekend. Well, that is if you don’t want to talk about the things I just mentioned. Most of what I’ve already said has been said over and over again for the last couple of weeks in particular. I don’t want to keep on talking about the things that others have covered again and again and almost worn out the talking points. It is customary for me to regularly offer my opinion and predictions for the coming race and I’m having trouble finding much new to talk about. That doesn’t mean there is nothing new to talk about. It just means others have covered them completely and quite well.

When it comes to the Bush Clash, It is always an exciting race and it gives us as fans a good look at how the 500 will go. So I’ll just keep this short and say, “I’ll have more to say about everything next week and weekend when we have the duals and the big one, the Daytona 500.” Until then, I’ll be watching and absorbing all I can so I can better talk about the Daytona 500 from this NASCAR Fan’s View.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 8, 2020 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Final Four Race For It All At Homestead from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The run for the 2019 MENCS Championship ends at Homestead this Sunday. If you ask the four drivers of the final four, they will tell you it has been a long, hard road but the end is in sight. As a fan, I can’t help but think the pressure is on whether they outwardly show it or not. One thing I know is it will be all business when the time comes to climb into the car and buckle in for the race to claim the 2019 Championship.

When it comes to the finale in NASCAR, it is different in several ways. For one, it is two races in one. First, it is a race to win the Ford Ecoboost 400. Second, it is a race between the four drivers in the Championship Four. The winner of the race can be someone other than those in the Championship four but the 2019 Championship will be claimed by the one of the final four that finishes ahead of the other three. Usually, the winner of both is one of the Championship Four.

During the race, the focus will mostly be on the Championship Four even if another competitor outside the four is leading and running away with the victory. Even though that sounds a bit unusual, hardly anyone really cares who wins unless it is one of those four competing for the Championship and, if it happens that someone outside the four wins, there will be two celebrations for the victors.

Well, don’t let that confuse you. The winner of the race often comes from those in the Championship Four and, more often than not, it takes a win to claim the Championship.

Even though there is a lot of hype surrounding this race, it will be serious business for the four drivers, crew chiefs and teams. Since weather cancelled qualifying, the Championship Four start in the first two rows and that may be a precursor to the way the race will go. Since these four drivers and teams start out front, it may mean things could get a little hairy from the get-go but, since they are considered to be the strongest teams going in, it just may be a battle between the four of them all through the 400 miles.

There are those that think Denny Hamlin has the advantage and momentum. That could be but I’m not so sure, at least from my view. You see, he has had a really good year but he also has a history of beating himself. It could be he has learned not to press until it is important to do so and I do believe he is older and wiser. His chances are good for taking the win and the Championship but I’m not willing to name him the victor yet.

One reason I’m not willing to name Denny as the favorite is Martin Truex Jr. He and his crew chief, Cole Pearn, have managed to shine, especially when it has counted in the recent past. After all, just look at the number of wins they have. Truex has seven and Denny has six this season. When all is said and done, the whole 400 miles could be between these two.

That brings me to Kyle Bush. Of the three JGR teams, he has been the one struggling in the latter part of the season. Now, I’m not saying struggling in the sense he hasn’t or won’t be a factor. I’m just saying he has struggled and it could go either way for him in the Ford Ecoboost 400. From my view, he may have turned the corner at just the right time. I guess that remains to be seen.

When it comes to Kevin Harvick, I think it he has the biggest struggle since it is one SHR team against three JGR teams. A few weeks ago, his number four team hit on something and it remains to be seen if it carries through to this Championship race at Homestead. In observing some of the goings on this week leading up to the race, He has looked confident and calm. From my view, he is probably the most mentally tough and confident of the four competitors. Unless something really out of the ordinary happens during the race like an equipment failure or getting involved in someone else’s accident, I do think he is up to the challenge of the JGR team cars he faces.

So, I’ll make this short and to the point. No matter how it actually goes, I think Kevin Harvick is going to end up taking his second MENCS Championship over the other three from JGR. If he does, just remember I told you he was going to do it. If he doesn’t then you can tell me how wrong I was and we’ll all move on to next year with hopes for more exciting racing and the hope the Chevys finally become competitive again…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 16, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Making It Or Breaking It At Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There’s just no two ways about it. Four drivers won’t make it to Homestead in the final four competing for the MENCS Championship for 2019. Two are already qualified for the finale and we already know what their names are. It is the other two names that remain in limbo until this one race at Phoenix is finished and in the books. When that happens, we will either have recognized our expected choices as winners or also rans or be completely amazed at how wrong we could be.

I don’t know about you, but it is another time in this year’s playoffs where anything could happen this weekend. I mean, if you just look at what has happened to several of the drivers over last few races, you’ll see overwhelming evidence that no one except Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are guaranteed a spot at Homestead. No matter what some say about Kyle Bush or Joey Logano and them moving on to the Championship race, there is still no guarantee.

Speaking of Kyle Bush, does anyone think he hasn’t been struggling at least slightly for a while now. Oh sure, he’s still “sort of” maintained his points position except for being passed by the two winners over the last two weeks. If you listen to him, the race Sunday is between him and Logano when it comes to moving on to the final four. He makes no mention of the other drivers below the cut line and it appears he expects to win at Phoenix. That could very well be the way it turns out.

Joey Logano, on the other hand, doesn’t sound all that confident even though he had a very good week last weekend. Listening to him in interviews over this last week he has had a guarded optimism about them. He doesn’t seem to be overly confident of how he will finish but does have at least a little “hope” in his voice. From this fan’s view, I think he is concerned about another disaster striking and taking him out of contention all together.

Personally, I don’t know what to think of these two. I know they don’t really care what I think and you probably don’t either but I have to say this. I’m am not totally convinced that either one, or both, of them will move on to the final four.

Why would I say such a thing? Well… just look at what has happened to Chase Elliott over the last few weeks. He has gone from a favored one to move on to one that has to win to make it to Homestead as a one of the four competing for the Championship. There was the equipment failures of two blown engines and a broken axle, (quite unusual for a Hendrick racing team.) Last week he just made a driver error that put him way out of touch with the cut line and made this weekend a must win to get in.

Denny Hamlin looked to be a lock for the final four and he has managed to drop below the cutline. That was completely unexpected by most and now he probably needs to win if he expects to make it to the final four. We all know he is quite capable but there is still the question of, will he? Could something happen to put him completely out of the running? Could he score a lot of points in the stages and still be outpointed by Bush and Logano? These are all questions that won’t be answered until the race is run and done.

And then there’s Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. Both not totally out but by no means in. Both still have a chance to make it to Homestead and in the hunt but a lot of positive things have to happen for them. They both have to run up front and score lot of points while the ones above them have to have really bad races and lose a lot of points. In reality, they both need to win but you and I both know only one of them can so guess what that means? Yeah, that’s right; both of them can’t win so there just about has to be a complete and total failure (in other words, finishing last) for Kyle Bush and Joey Logano. Oh, and by the way, Denny Hamlin would have to be right there with them in those last places.

Does it sound like this weekend is going to be full of excitement, drama and emotion? Does it also sound like the pressure is on all six of those not qualified for the final four? I would say a very resounding, YES! to all of those questions, how about you?

I expect this to be one of the most aggressive and action-packed races of the year and especially in these 2019 playoffs. As I said at the opening of this, four drivers and teams won’t make it to the final four. Two are in and six want to make it in. Of the six wanting to make it in, only two will and which two remains to be seen. A winner from below the cut line changes everything and, since troubles have been abundant for many of the contenders, a bad day by any one or more of the six can do the same.

I don’t know what you think, but this fan thinks this is going to be a race to remember for a long time…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 9, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Pressure Is On At Texas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

A quick look at the round of eight shows there are four above the cut line and four below. One is already in the Championship race at Homestead and seven are trying to make it in. Unfortunately, only three of those seven will be in Homestead with a chance to go for the 2019 MENCS Championship and that means the pressure is on at Texas this weekend.

For Martin Truex Jr. there is absolutely no pressure for him or his crew chief, Cole Pearn. They are already locked into the Championship race since winning Martinsville last weekend. It doesn’t matter whether they perform well or not at Texas (or Phoenix for that matter) because it won’t make a lick of difference. Of course we know they won’t just idle around the next two races, waiting to compete at Homestead. It just doesn’t matter how they perform until they get there.

When it comes to Denny Hamlin, well, it depends on how his races go the next two weeks. At the moment he looks to be fairly safe and likely to move on to the final four. IF however, the troubles come as they have for many in the playoffs, his fortunes could change by the time it comes to being in the final four. Now I’m not saying he won’t make it in and I’m not saying he will have a lot of trouble but, he could and with the way points go, he could have a couple of bad races over the next two weekends and not make it. It would be shocking if he didn’t but it could happen.

Kyle Bush on the other hand hasn’t looked like the Kyle Bush we’ve all come to expect. He has struggled even though his struggles haven’t caused him to fall below the cut line yet. If they continue or get worse, he could miss it and, even though that would be unexpected, it could very well happen.

Joey Logano is struggling even as his teammate Brad Keselowski did in the earlier round. Well, at least he is from this fan’s view. He hasn’t had all that good of races over the last several and has only managed to squeak by and stay in the hunt for the Championship. There are some that may say he is doing what it takes to make it through but I just don’t see it that way. He is one of two in the top four at the moment that I’m just not sure will move on. He could but his place is conditional at the present. If things don’t go better for him, well, that could mean looking to next year for another try at a championship.

Of the four below the cut line, there three that could make it in on points but that would mean three of the four already above the cut would have to have bad weeks while the three below have really good weeks.

From this fan’s view, Kevin Harvick is the most obvious to make a move into the top four simply because he has performed well at both Texas and Phoenix in the past. He could move by scoring stage points and finishing near the front in this one at Texas or even next weekend at Phoenix. He could also stay mired right where he is below the cut line and have to wait until next season to go for another championship. Looking at his performance lately, I’m not sure which way it will go.

When it comes to Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson, well, it’s tough to say. Both of them could win or both of them could score a lot of stage points along with a top five finish at Texas. Neither one is stuck where they are and neither one is a definite to move on without a win. The rub is that either of them could win and that would put them right in the mix at Homestead. I don’t know how you feel about it but from my view, it could go either way.

No matter how you look at it, Chase Elliott is under the most pressure to perform at the top of his game this weekend and if he doesn’t win, next weekend becomes the same again. Of all the playoff drivers and teams, his “luck” has been the worst over the last couple of weeks and he can’t afford another engine failure, broken rear end or broken axle or what ever took him out of contention last weekend. He has to win stage points and lots of them or he has to win, there are no two ways about it. If he doesn’t win, whether or not he advances depends on the performance of the other seven not yet in. Either way, his work is cut out for him and his team. Honestly, I think they’re up to the task but they can’t afford more unexpected equipment failures.

The next two weekends are going to be pressure packed and to this fan there is no doubt about that. there are a number of drivers capable of winning at Texas and some aren’t even in the playoffs. If that happens, well, let’s just say it could get VERY interesting…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 2, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

All Out Going For It At Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There’s no doubt the emotions will rise to a peak at Martinsville on Sunday afternoon. There’s just no way they can’t. We’re talking about short track racing on a half mile oval with a lot on the line for eight drivers and teams as well as all the rest that want to win the coveted Grandfather Clock. Just which of the drivers might come out on top remains to be seen but from this fan’s view, it should prove to be a very interesting afternoon.

In my opinion, I expect just about the whole field to be “all out going for it” when it comes to competing for the win, but eight of them are more interested than the rest simply because a win by one of them means moving on to Homestead to the final four.

I know you’ve heard all of the talk about which ones have already been chosen to be in the final four, but I’m just not as sure as some about that. With the way things have gone so far in the playoffs, I’m still one of those that believes anything can happen. When I look at the round of eight, I only see one driver that hasn’t really struggled much at all. Of course that would be Denny Hamlin.

I admit, he has been much more confident and less bothered by things that used to bring about his demise in previous years. If his performance continues as it has lately, I think he might be the only one of the eight to make it to the final four. Of course that could change over the next three weeks, but I don’t see it unless his course totally reverses itself.

The next one on my list of “probable’s” to make it to the final four is Martin Truex Jr. It is hard to argue with his consistency lately and it is hard to argue with his performance on the tracks over the next three weeks. He almost won Martinsville last year at this time (Joey Logano put an end to that) and he is as determined as ever to go all out for it again this year. And don’t depend on him letting Logano or anyone else repeat what happened last year if the opportunity arises. He is more likely to be the one dishing it out this time.

After those two, (and I’m really not so sure both of them will move on), is where it really gets interesting, at least in my mind. What I’m saying is, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and, yes, even Kyle Bush could end up as “no shows” in the final four at Homestead.

(I know, you think I left someone out, don’t you? Believe me, I haven’t forgotten Chase Elliott and I will talk about him a little later.)

The five I mentioned above have had their ups and downs over the last several weeks and unfortunately, I’m not so sure any of them will make it to the final four unless they win one of the next three races. They just haven’t shown themselves to be that much better than those they are competing against. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying they won’t make it. I’m just saying they and their teams have to be just about flawless over the next three races, they have to get as many points as they can and they need to finish near the front. Two of them are only in the round of eight because they won a race in the round of twelve and that would be Larson and Blaney. One of them, Logano, has struggled to be where he is and, even though Martinsville is one of his better tracks, I see no guarantee he won’t struggle at one or two of the next three tracks. (If he is in front of Martin Truex Jr. as they approach the final lap or two, well, let’s just say “anything can happen.”

Kevin Harvick may not do well at Martinsville but he does tend to perform well at Texas and Phoenix so he could gain a lot of points at the latter two even if he doesn’t win one of them. To me, he and Logano are the two biggest question marks in my mind over the next three races. Both of them could advance to the final four or one or both of them could miss it altogether. I’m just not sure about them at this point but I do know time will reveal it to us over the next three weekends.

When it comes to Kyle Bush, I’m just not sure how he will do. Over the last several races, he has looked good and bad but relatively consistent. He has been known to have good and bad races at Martinsville, as well as the other two that follow. I’m not sure what it is but something just isn’t there for him lately. Of course, that could change on a dime but it is another thing we’ll just have to wait and see on.

Chase Elliott needs to win. That’s just the way it looks from this fan’s view. He doesn’t necessarily have to win at Martinsville, but he needs to win at one of these next three tracks. Starting out in the first practice at Martinsville with a blown engine after only five or six laps isn’t starting off the weekend with a bang. He and his team need to be flawless from this point on if he wants to make it to the final four. After that, well, I guess he could win his first MENCS Championship. What ever the case, over the next three weekends of racing, the eight in the playoffs are going to be “all out going for it” at Martinsville, Texas AND Phoenix and it’s gong to be an intense three weekends…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 26, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Four Gone After Kansas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

When the MENCS teams finish the race at Kansas Speedway this weekend, four will be gone from the competition for the 2019 Championship. The question is, which four won’t be moving on. This is an elimination race and there will only be eight left to move on to the Round of Eight.

Stress levels are high, especially among the six hovering just above or just below the cut line. Talladega was not nice to many last weekend and the Hendrick teams appeared to suffer the most damage. Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron all took a hit in the points standings and all are fighting for the opportunity to move on to the round of eight. Clint Bowyer is the lone non-Hendrick driver below the cut line. He has his work cut out for himself the same as the Hendrick teams if he wants to move on into the round of Eight.

I’m sure all of this you already know since it has been the hot topic ever since the race at Talladega was in the books. As I mentioned above, Talladega was a wreck-fest that took a big toll on the playoff drivers. Of the four below the cut line, William Byron has the greatest task ahead of him, at least from this fan’s view, but I’ll talk more about him and the others a little later.

Even though there are some in the playoffs with little to nothing to worry about going into the Hollywood Casino 400 as Kansas Speedway, two in particular should be concerned. Of course you know that would be Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano. Even though they are twenty and eighteen points to the good, they cannot afford to have a bad day. There is nothing definite about their weekend unless they either win or score a lot of points over the others. Going into the race, the two Penske drivers look to have a fairly good cushion and are expected to move on but, if anything happens to put them finishing way down in the order, they could be gone.

There are six that don’t have much to be concerned about. Well… I guess it is possible that disaster could strike. It is definite that Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney will move on. Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick are very solid also and odds are they don’t need to be concerned about moving on even though Kyle Bush has been struggling lately. If one of the drivers below the cut line wins, well… that could make things a bit more interesting depending on how the others finish.

So… the Kansas Speed way is a slick track and the Cup cars will be running pretty much wide open except when situations dictate they lift or brake. That means it is going to be hard to pass and will likely result in the use of some “chrome bumpers” if drivers decide to hold their lines. If that is the case, it could mean the flare up of tempers. Hopefully, those flareups won’t take out someone in the playoffs or someone trying to stay in them.

William Byron has shown a lot of improvement this season and this fan thinks he has, at least, hope of winning this one. If he does, (which I think is his only hope of moving into the “Round of Eight”), he will join Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson as winners to move on. I’m not saying he will win, I’m just saying he could and it would definitely shake things up if he did. Alex Bowman is in the same boat as far as I’m concerned. He has shown he can pull the proverbial “rabbit out of the hat” and I really wouldn’t put it past him to do it again. Chase Elliott won at Kansas last season and some have picked him as the one to beat in the Hollywood Casino 400. I guess I could go on and on mentioning names of possible winners but I won’t.

Here’s the problem. The Hendrick teams haven’t looked all that strong so far this weekend. Of course I am writing this before qualifying so that could change my mind. Since basically the three Hendrick teams just about need a win to advance or have some disasters strike those above them, they’re going to have to show more speed than they have so far this weekend. I’m not saying they’re up against an impossible task, I’m just saying they can’t make any mistakes and they have to have a lot of things go their way.

No matter how you look at it, there is a lot on the line for many and some look to be up against impossible odds. Their only hope, from this fan’s view, is to win. Unfortunately, only one can win and from my view, there are definitely four that need to…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 19, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated