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

After last weekend’s race at the Monster, there are those that would like this one at Talladega to be a little more tame. Joey Logano and Chase Elliott are two of them and it could be said that last weekend was “bad” for the both of them. Because of the problems they had last weekend, the pressure is on them to have a good race at Talladega. Fortunately, both of them are capable of doing so, especially at Talladega. Of course, you already know, they aren’t the only ones that have to have a good race at a track where anything can happen and anyone in the field can win.

From this fan’s view, and considering where they are this weekend, I really don’t think anyone in the standings from sixth to twelfth can afford to have a bad race. The only one that won’t be sweating out the laps all the way to the end is Kyle Larson. With his win last weekend, he is already qualified to move on to the Round of Eight. Though some are safer than others in the remaining top twelve, Talladega can rob a bunch of points from even the highest in the standings, just as the Monster did last weekend.

Joey Logano and William Byron are basically tied at the eighth spot going into Sunday’s race. Both of them need to score a lot of stage points and it wouldn’t hurt if either one of them won. Of course you know which one I would prefer but, of the two, I have no idea which will actually step up to the plate and do it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m going to go for the one in the Chevy. When it comes down to these two, well it’s no contest. I’m going to go with Byron every time. I’m just not a Logano fan but that doesn’t take anything away from his talent or abilities. It just means I’m not a fan. In reality, I’m a Chevy fan over Ford probably because I’m partial to Chevys. I used to race Chevys. I’ve almost always owned a Chevy except once and that was way back in the seventies. (I also admit my wife’s car is a Toyota – but that’s another story.) I just like Chevys.

When my friends and I would talk about racecars and racing back in the day, there were a lot of cliché sayings about Fords. Most of my friends had stock cars but some had drag racing cars. Some of those old clichés are still around and you probably recognize them too. I’ll just mention a few about the Fords. The Chevy guys would say to the Ford guys, “Found On Road Dead” or “Fix Or Repair Daily” to which the Ford guys would offer their comeback of, “First On Race Day.” It was all in good fun. One of my friends had a tricked out drag car and he use to tell me why he had a Chevy over a Ford. Quite simply he said it was because the Chevy was cheap horsepower; they could get more horsepower with less expense and that was a plus.

Oh well, enough of, “back in the day.”

One thing I have to bring up is something that has become more common-place in recent years. It is the whining going on from some of the drivers. Because of his problems last weekend, several were upset with Joey Logano because he raced them hard even though he was twenty plus laps down. It just so happens they are from the JGR camp and they have the most wins this season of any of the other organizations. Two that standout in my mind are Martin Truex Jr and Denny Hamlin. (Remember I’ve talked about Kyle Bush before.) They were griping about Joey and others that were racing them too hard.

It seems that these days, if you or your organization seems to be running better than others, everyone is supposed to just move out of the way so you don’t have to work so hard to pass. From this fan’s view (and I’m not alone in this opinion) I don’t see why they think that way. With the Format the way it is in Cup, every point counts and just one point can make a difference in whether someone can advance to the next round or not. If you don’t believe me, just look at Jimmie Johnson last season at the Roval. He missed moving on by the minutest margin and missed being able to compete for the Championship.

That’s why I think Sunday’s race at Talladega is going to be one of the most intense Super Speedway races in a long time. I don’t think anyone is going to be playing “Mr. nice guy.” I think all of those still in the playoffs and hoping to move on to the next round are going to push the envelope. There is also an element called aggressive driving and I think we will see a lot of that on Sunday afternoon. I hesitate to say they will put themselves in jeopardy in their aggressive maneuverings in the packs but, I do expect there will often be “cautious aggressiveness” exhibited on a regular basis, especially when the end of the stages are near.

I don‘t know how you feel about it but, the winner of this one could be a surprise winner. We’ve got drivers looking for rides next year, drivers looking for wins that haven’t won in while and drivers trying to make it to the Round Of Eight. With all of that going on, I expect at least one Big One and that could be the one that ends somebody’s hopes for this season. Sure, I know there’s another race left in this round after Talladega but, I also know having to win to move on to the next round can be difficult for any of them and every point counts. (Hey wait a minute! Didn’t I already say that?)

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 12, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Round Of Twelve Opens At The Monster from a NASCAR Fan’s View

What better place for the round of twelve to open than at the Monster Mile. This weekend the MENCS teams will be running the package with the most downforce and the most horsepower that NASCAR allows this year. The Monster is fast… Very fast!

There isn’t a lot that can be said that hasn’t already been said about the Monster. Everyone already knows pretty much all there is to know about it. The only difference about this weekend compared to the race back in May is that this one is the first race in the round of twelve in the playoffs. The only questions to be answered are whether the results will be different than they were back in the Spring.

From this fan’s view, things could be a lot different. Martin Truex Jr. dominated and won the May race. Way back then, the Toyotas ruled, the Fords were running “good” and the Chevys were still pretty much struggling. This weekend things haven’t changed all that much but the Chevys are looking much more competitive. Chase Elliott won this race last fall and the Chevys have shown up this weekend looking quite a bit more ready to run up front.

After last weekend at The Roval, the Hendrick Chevys are looking to carry their performance level into Sunday’s race and it does appear they have a little bit of momentum going for them. Kyle Larson from the Ganassi camp also looks to have something for the Toyotas and Fords.

Now that I’ve mentioned last weekend, I can’t help but say something about Chase Elliott’s win at The Roval. Yeah, I know you’ve heard just about all you want to about last weekend, but I just have to give my two cents. You already know I’m a big Chevy fan and also a Hendrick MotorSports fan. It also holds true I am a big Chase Elliott fan. After he over-drove the restart right into the barrier at the first turn, I figured he was done. I had no idea he would come back from that setback and win. It was truly an unexpected victory even though the Hendrick Chevys have shown a lot of strength at the Road courses.

I have to say I had pretty much counted Alex Bowman out after his first lap happenings, also. As the laps wound down to the final few, I was as surprised as anyone he would finish second and was coming close to challenging Elliott for the win. It was a really strong performance for the HMS teams as they all finished in the top ten.

Oh well, that’s enough of last week for now…

I’ve already mentioned Kyle Larson and this fan thinks he could take his CGR Chevy to Victory Lane. He’s already shown he has speed this weekend; it just remains to be seen how he runs all the way to the end. Lately, that’s been their problem… getting to the end at, or near, the front.

From this fan’s view, Jimmie Johnson just can’t be counted out as a possible winner on Sunday since already has so many wins at the Monster. Sure, I know it’s been a while since he’s won at the Monster (or at all), but he still knows what it takes to win there. I’m not saying he will but I do think it’s possible. It all depends on whether the Chevys show their speed in the race instead of in practice and qualifying.

Of course, we all know the JGR Toyotas have to be considered as having a really good day at the Monster; In particular, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin. In the Spring, Martin Truex Jr dominated and won and he has been showing a lot of strength over the last several races. He didn’t perform so well at the Roval but he just can’t be ruled out as having the same kind of day he had in the Spring. I don’t know that he will dominate as he did but I am sure he will be someone to watch on Sunday.

A quick look at those that could possibly win on Sunday shows just about any of the ones still in the playoffs could. They’re not the only ones, though. There are several not in, but still running to win, that could. It is very hard to pick just one. It could be Chase Elliott, since he won last year. It could be Alex Bowman if he runs like he did last week (and as long as Bubba doesn’t decide to help him not make a turn as a little payback from the Roval.) It could be Kevin Harvick. We haven’t heard much from him lately but he still runs well. The possibilities are endless for this one.

Say… you don’t think the JGR teams have picked a bad time to go into a little slump, do you? I guess it is a possibility. I mean, they just haven’t looked like they did when they were winning all of those races this season. Well, that is, if we don’t look at Martin Truex Jr and the way he’s been running…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 5, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Four Are Gone When The Roval Is Done from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There is one thing that is certain for the race this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. when this race is done there will be four less drivers and teams competing for the MENCS Championship. Without a doubt that is one of the only definites this fan can see but, which ones won’t move on to the round of twelve is beyond me at the time of this writing. We all know the ones that are locked in to moving on but there are those from about ninth to fifteenth that really need a good finish when the Roval is done. As for Erik Jones in sixteenth, well, he needs to win to be sure he can make it.

The Roval is a unique road course track and just about anything can happen. Honestly, from my view, just about anything we can think of probably will happen before this one is in the books. This is the second time the MENCS teams have visited the Roval and, if you remember last year’s race, a lot of unexpected things happened. I expect the same or even more this time.

The bubble drivers – those from ninth to fifteenth – are only separated by fourteen points and if any of them run into problems their run in the playoffs is through for this 2019 season. You already know the ones in the most precarious situations are, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Bush and Erik Jones because they are already below the cutline. Those that can’t afford any problems (at least from this fan’s view) are William Byron and Aric Almirola since they are only above the cut by two to three points.

Of course, as you already know, William Byron won the pole position and has looked to have speed since they unloaded off the truck, along with his teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson. Bowman sits in thirteenth place in the standings just two points behind Byron which could make for some very interesting drama as the race progresses to its completion.

Chase Elliott is reasonably safe sitting in seventh place with +37 points but he cannot afford to have a bad day and, if he has a DNF, his chances would be done for the playoffs and advancing to the final four. It is worth noting that many have already written off the Chevys making it to the round of eight let alone the final four. From this fan’s view, Chase looked to be struggling a bit in practice and even struggled in qualifying. I’m not ruling him out yet, as far as having another good road course run, but he does have his work cut out for himself.

In observing the Hendrick Chevys so far this weekend, they do look to have the speed and have proved it by three of them starting in the front two rows. My concern is what has plagued them most of the season and that is maintaining that speed all the way to the finish. Practice times and qualifying are one thing but it doesn’t say much about how they will fare on restarts, in traffic and all the way to the finish.

I will say this though; Jimmie Johnson could win this one. That would be a big deal for him if for no other reason than he hasn’t had a win in a long time. If he does win that would make it all the more difficult for Erik Jones to advance to the next round unless he scores a lot of stage points and finishes very near the front.

Although there is a lot going on throughout the playoff contenders, one that has me concerned is Kyle Bush. Don’t know what’s going on with him but he just hasn’t looked all that good recently and hasn’t been handling what “the racing gods” have been handing him lately. It was even obvious during practice that he may not deal with slower cars all that well like in recent races. I’m not saying anything negative but, his aggressiveness could come back to haunt him and take him right out of the hunt for a Championship. The JGR Toyotas are strong but the stress of the playoffs could be the undoing for a couple of them. (Oh, in case you’re wondering, Denny Hamlin is the other one. Not saying things will go wrong. Just saying they could.)

In observing the first practice and qualifying, it certainly appeared to this fan that many were struggling with wheel hop and that could prove to be a disaster for, not only the ones experiencing it, but for those that might get taken out along with them. If it happens to take someone out that needs a good finish, well, we all know what that will mean and that is one thing that will make this race at the Roval a bigger wild card than Talladega. But then, this is a cutoff race and it is at one of the most challenging tracks in the playoffs.

This fan expects there could be more than the usual drama and emotion throughout this one and some of it may play out on the track… Hey, I’m just saying it is going to be intense and You and I both know what that can mean…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 28, 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 For Some At Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

For some, the pressure is on to gain a lot of points or win when they take to the track at Richmond Raceway Saturday night. For others, well… they really need to at least be consistent and hope they don’t have the same troubles a few experienced at Vegas last weekend. Of course we all know Martin Truex Jr. could finish dead last at Richmond and not have to worry about moving on to the next round of the playoffs at all.

I don’t know what you think about it but, there is something about those Joe Gibbs Toyotas and I’m not sure we’ve seen all they have to offer yet. I mean, I think they’ve been holding back on some of their performance over the last part of the regular season and saving the best for these playoffs. It seems they have a little bit more speed available than the other teams and that’s not to say they haven’t been strong all year. After all, the JGR teams have won many of the races this season and the only hope for many of the others involved in the playoffs is for their performance to fall off big time.

Of course, I could be wrong and things could turn around as fast as they did for Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Kyle Bush. For some reason Hamlin’s performance dropped off all the sudden and he finished fifteenth even though he was moving up in the order when the change happened. Erik Jones had good speed but ran into equipment problems like a sticking throttle and then a transmission stuck in second gear. But for Martin Truex Jr, well, he was a whole different story.

Yeah, that’s right; He was dropping like a rock through the field and then, after some adjustments, he started making his way to the front and that’s exactly where he ended up. Amazing how that happens. Just a few minor adjustments and, all of the sudden he is better than anyone on the track. Did you ever wonder what it is about his crew chief and what he knows about these packages the others don’t? Well… I have to admit I do and he seems to pull it off more often than not.

Oh, and then there was Kyle Bush and his run-in with the wall in the first laps of the race that put him down two laps. He did recover but I have more to say about him before I’m finished here.

Joey Logano his Penske Ford appeared to be the class of the field until Daniel Suarez forced him into the wall. After that, he really wasn’t competing for the win anymore. He was just going for as many points as he could get.

Speaking of Daniel Suarez; he just doesn’t seem to want to let anyone hold him back or pass him. I admit he is aggressive but I think his aggressiveness is going to come back to haunt him in the near and distant future. It appears to this fan he is still driving like he has a chance to be in the playoffs and win the championship. Of course, we all know “that just ain’t gonna happen.” He may be racing to keep his job or improve his end of the season standings but, he just can’t do better than being out of the playoffs allow.

Now, getting back to Kyle Bush (and this is just this fan’s opinion and will likely make some a little angry.) I do admit he is a very talented driver and is definitely going to one day be in the hall of fame. The problem is he is only happy when he wins and he often blames his lack of performance on the package NASCAR mandates the Cup teams to use. This year he has often talked of how hard it is to pass, (because of the mandated package), how hard it is to get the balance right, (because of the mandated package), how he could have run better, (also because of the mandated package.)

Last weekend at Vegas he did come up with a new one though, at least different from blaming the mandated package. This time he blamed slower cars and unproven drivers, insinuating they shouldn’t even be on the track. Did he forget that he drove himself into the wall and put himself down two laps (which he made up through strategy calls?) Either through miscommunication or bad info from the spotters he ran into the back of a slower car and went from about third place to finishing nineteenth.

I understand his frustration but I also see his history repeating itself. I don’t know; it could have to do with him being concerned of not being able to make it to the Championship round in nine weeks if his performance doesn’t improve. It could be for a number of reasons, I guess. All I know is that, in this fan’s opinion, hardly anything, including bad finishes, is his fault. He seems to for get that others, including his teammates, are constantly doing what he complains is hard to do with this package and they have had to deal with slower cars and less proven drivers the same as him. I mean, come on. There has to be a time when even a talented driver like him has to come to grips with the fact he isn’t without fault, accept his shortcomings, work to improve them and move on to even more accomplishments.

For the others at or near the cut line, the pressure is on to get points or win if they want to stay in the playoffs. The Roval is coming next weekend and, depending on how things turn out for them at Richmond, next weekend can be even more pressure packed…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 21, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Playoffs Begin At Vegas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well, it’s that time again. Yeah, it’s time for the 2019 MENCS playoffs to begin and what better place is there than Vegas. I mean, it’s time for the sixteen drivers and teams competing for the Championship to start showing all their cards. No more playing around and experimenting; the time has come to go all in. The next nine races are all that matter as they try to make it into the final four and compete for the coveted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November, just ten short weeks away.

A lot of the talking heads have already chosen which four will be in the final four, but I’m not so sure I agree with them. Well… at least not yet. One of the interesting things about this playoff format is that there is no guarantee the ones on top, now, will make it to the final four. Just as some of the ones at the bottom of the standings had weeks of struggle before they sealed their spots in the playoffs, the same can happen to those that are considered to be the “most likely” ones to advance all the way to the final four.

I do admit the favorites, the ones on top right now, have managed a lot of wins amongst themselves and they do appear to have the advantage going into this first race. All of that can change immediately after this one is in the books. After all, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer are great examples of what can happen after three races. They both got in by the skin of their teeth and, had they not performed as they did, neither of them would be in the mix at all.

Ryan Newman was constantly pressing to finish as high as possible in the last several races just to get into the top sixteen. His was no easy task and he fought and clawed his way in. Clint Bowyer was solidly in the top sixteen and ran into a string of bad finishes that almost negated his chances to even be in the playoffs. Both of these drivers didn’t lock themselves in until the race last weekend at Indy and both of them had to sweat it out to the very end.

Unfortunately, the drivers presently in the top spots, that locked themselves in early on in the season, could face the same struggles as Bowyer did. They have acquired a lot of playoff points and look to be obvious choices because they have multiple wins and show up almost every race weekend with fast race cars.

Although I do agree with the old saying the cream always rises to the top, I’m not willing to admit right off that their performance will continue to pull them through. In racing, anything can happen and bad racing luck can happen even to the best of them.

The names this fan keeps hearing mentioned as being the final four are, Kyle Bush, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. I realize that’s five but Kevin Harvick seems to be peaking at the right time and it’s a toss-up, according to many, which one is the more likely choice between the two, namely Harvick and Truex Jr. After all, these are the ones most often mentioned as the ones most likely to be in the final four even before the first race in the playoffs has seen its first lap.

If you don’t think what I am saying here can happen to any of them, just take a look at Jimmie Johnson. Earlier in the summer, it looked as though he was going to be in the playoffs by points, if not by having a win. But then the bottom fell out and he dropped a bunch of spots just like Clint Bowyer. Just as Jimmie Johnson fell out of contention completely over several weeks, the exact same thing can happen to any of the top sixteen in this first round, and in particular to the ones “expected” to move on. I realize this may sound pretty far fetched but don’t think bad luck can’t be a deciding factor in which of the drivers and teams move on. Engine failures, tire failures and any number of things can, and often do, go wrong. It doesn’t even have to be the fault of the ones taken out by someone else’s problem but, it can happen and there isn’t anything they can do about it if it does.

Now look… I’m not saying what happened to Jimmie Johnson is likely to happen to one of the top seeded drivers. What I am saying is, although a lot of the #48’s problems were brought on by their own miscues, there were also things they had absolutely no control over that cost them good point days. Those days cost them dearly and that is exactly the type stuff that could happen to the others…

Just before I close, I have to give my opinion of all the hype surrounding Jimmie Johnson’s missing the playoffs for the first time in his career. It’s my opinion many of the media guys (and gals) are making too big a deal out of it. NASCAR isn’t going to fold just because seven-time Cup Champ, Jimmie Johnson didn’t make the playoffs. It also doesn’t mean he is through and should retire. It just means he had a bad season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won one or two of these last ten races and, though it won’t get him a Championship this year, it just might mean everyone should look out for him next season. I mean, now there’s no pressure and every bit of progress they make now can carry over to next year. Hey, just sayin’…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 14, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Who Will Be In When This One Ends from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There’s a lot to be said about the 25th running of the Brickyard 400 taking place Sunday at Indy. It is one race any NASCAR driver would like to win and it is one of four Crown Jewels on the NASCAR circuit. The biggest question many of us have is, “Who’ll be in when this one ends.”

Yeah, that’s right. This is it. This is the last race and end of what is called in these recent years, the regular season. Kyle Bush has already clinched the 2019 regular season championship and, when this one is done, the playoffs begin.

But wait. You already knew that didn’t you. What is unknown by both you and me at the time of this writing is which sixteen drivers and teams will be in the playoffs competing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November. That’s another thing to be said about this 25th running of the Brickyard 400. It is where the bubble will burst for at least two of the four now sitting at a precarious place in the standings. Of course you know the main four I’m talking about. Barring a completely unexpected happening, the four I’m talking about are Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.

At least three of these four drivers have been battling bad luck and bad decisions over several weekends of the racing in this last part of the season to bounce in and out of the top sixteen spots. After the race Sunday, there will be no more bouncing. The field will be set and, barring the unforeseen, two will be locked out of making a bid for the 2019 MENCS Championship.

I know the next things I’m going to say you’ve probably heard a hundred times over the last week or weeks. The four drivers on or around the bubble have to perform well in the Brickyard 400. Clint Bowyer is only eight points to the good and, from this fan’s view and the way his luck has been running, he can’t afford to have a bad day. In reality, he just needs to finish ahead of the other three and he should be in the top sixteen and on his way to the playoffs. That is by no means a given since he has been high enough in the points to not have to worry and now must perform well to definitely make it in.

Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez are tied at the sixteenth spot with Suarez in the sixteenth spot because of the tiebreaker. This will be most dramatic part of the entire race in this fan’s opinion, since these two have a little history, in particular from the race last weekend at Darlington. There is no doubt Ryan Newman knows what it will take if the opportunity is there for him and, from past years experiences, we know he will do what it takes. He has been the most consistent finisher over the past weekends’ races compared to Johnson and Bowyer. That won’t mean a whole lot if he isn’t in position to take advantage of those in front of him in the standings. From this fan’s view, I expect him to be even harder to pass than usual and that won’t bode well for the other three.

There is no doubt, Daniel Suarez is a hard charger and, as we witnessed last weekend, he is not opposed to pressing the envelope on those he is competing against. He has speed and he has the will to press that envelope when necessary. I don’t expect this weekend to be any different than what he has shown much of the season and I don’t think he will let up even around Ryan Newman. It is the same for him as it is for the four I’m mostly talking about here. They all need stage points and they all need to finish ahead of those they are running against to make it into the top sixteen.

There is none of these four that has had a more up and down times at this critical time in the season than Jimmie Johnson. He was in, he was out, he was in and he’s out again. Even though we have seen the Hendrick teams improve throughout the season and two of the Hendrick drivers are in the playoffs by wins. Of course that would be Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman and William Byron is in by points. The only one not in is Jimmie Johnson and there is none that would like to be in from HMS more than him.

From this fan’s view, his best chance to make sure he is in the playoffs is to win. There is no other way for him to guarantee himself being in other than doing that. It’s the only way he can remove any doubt no matter what happens to the rest. So… do you think there is any pressure on him and his team for the Brickyard 400? Yeah, that’s what I thought you would say and I agree with you…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 7, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Two To Go For A Chance To Make The Show from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The race at Darlington this weekend is about more than “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” It’s about four drivers that have been hovering around the cut line and their time is about to run out. Which one will it be? That is the question most seem to be asking. Some have already ruled out Jimmie Johnson continuing his streak of making the playoffs and, admittedly, he does have challenges ahead in the next two races if he is going to make it.

There are a lot of things about making the playoffs that are up in the air coming into the races this weekend and next. The four most likely to be contending are the ones everyone seems to be watching. Of course, just in case you are totally out of touch with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, those four drivers presently contending are Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. Their situation isn’t just with each other but there are others that can “shake up everything.”

Let’s not forget, this is “The Lady In Black”, the track “Too Tough To Tame” and just about anything can happen this weekend to shake up the standings, especially around the bubble area. As I mentioned, many have already written Jimmie Johnson’s epitaph as far as the playoff picture is concerned. This fan is not one of those but I do admit his chances are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Several weeks ago, Jimmie’s chances looked very good. He was in the top sixteen and looking to make the playoffs and keep his record intact. Then, it appears the bottom dropped out and things began to happen that caused his drop out of the top sixteen. Much of it was not his fault but, at this time in the season, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. It only matters where you sit in the standings and he is not in a good spot. From this fan’s view, his best chance is to win at Darlington or Indianapolis. Otherwise, he is at the mercy of the way his luck has been running reversing or the luck of the ones he is trying to outpoint taking a dip to get into the top sixteen.

The surprise of the last several weeks, at least from this fan’s view, is Daniel Suarez. He has moved from being out to occupying the sixteenth spot in the standings. He has been performing well but, as can be the case with racing luck, his luck can turn into the same as Jimmie Johnson’s has been and he could drop like a rock completely out of the top sixteen. After all, he is only two points in as it stands right now. It won’t take much to knock him out and it definitely won’t take much for him to advance further up in the standings.

Clint Bowyer has been having pretty much the same luck as Jimmie Johnson over the last several races. He has gone from being in to being just out by two points. He is in a battle with his SHR teammate, Daniel Suarez, to make the cut and just hasn’t been able to catch a break even when others have struggled in past races. Something has always happened to keep him from gaining needed points to get into the top sixteen.

Of the four most involved in the battle for making the top sixteen, Ryan Newman is the one that has been the most consistent finisher. That’s not to say he has always had the most speed but he is consistently finishing ahead of the other three. Presently, he is only twelve points to the good and he needs to continue finishing ahead of the others or he, too, will drop out of the top sixteen and either need a win or take advantage of the possible misfortunes of the others.

No matter which way you look at it, these next two races should prove to be extremely interesting and stressful for these four drivers and teams. With such a tight points battle, this fan sees the drama and emotion to be highly elevated. Personally, I expect there could be some outbursts amongst these four and possibly others as the race progresses on Sunday evening. With this much at stake, I don’t see how it can be avoided, particularly if one of the four, or someone else in the lineup causes them to lose points or puts them out of contention completely for the playoffs.

With all of that being said, here is another scenario. Disaster can strike any one of those in the top sixteen and not locked in either by wins or points over these last two races of the regular season. That could cause any one or all of the four to move up in the standings as long as they have a good day points-wise.

But, what if there is an unexpected winner from the top twenty both at Darlington this weekend and/or next weekend at Indianapolis? That, my friends, is why the next two races are about more than just the four hovering around the bubble before the races start. If one of them wins, they’re in. If not, well…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 31, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Night Race At Bristol And The Pressure Is On from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Okay, I’ve been trying really hard to avoid the obvious, but I just can’t do it. I’ve got to say what everyone says about this race even though it is getting a little repetitive everywhere. Are you ready? Here it is… this is the summer Saturday Night race at Bristol and there are only three races to go to make the playoffs. That means the pressure is on and time is running out for those hovering around the bubble spot of sixteenth but, “It’s Bristol, Baby!!”

There. I think I’ve gotten it out of my system, at least for now. This is what is commonly known as the world’s fastest half mile oval and it is one of the most popular racetracks on the NASCAR circuit. It has high speeds, high banks and a lot of drama and high emotions. Since it is basically called a short track, there is also the expectation of typical short track racing with all the bumping and banging, pushing and shoving. Of course, along with all that, there is the expectation of paybacks if there are some leftover anger issues from previous races.

Well, there are a couple of things that might make this one a little more intense than has even become the usual for the races at Bristol, in particular the night race. There is the fact that passing will be hard and the likely way some will use will be the use of the bumper to move them out of the way. It seems the track wants to return this track back to a single groove track and that’s why they have only applied the “sticky stuff” to the bottom groove. as for the other grooves, well, they expect the drivers will work them in on their own. This only adds to the pressure on those drivers trying to make it into the top sixteen because, as we have endlessly been told, there is a major traffic jam at the bubble area of the standings.

Since emotions are already high, especially amongst those trying to make the playoffs, the setup of the track will be conducive to even higher emotions. In this fan’s opinion, the track has almost guaranteed there will be even more bumping and banging than usual and it could lead to some very “disgruntled” drivers as the night progresses. In other words, some of them may get “fighting mad” and it could make for interesting “conversations” when this one is over.

You will notice I have tried to carefully choose my words in the previous statements. That is because I don’t want to be accused stirring the pot. The track is helping do that all by itself by the way they have used the PJ1 (commonly called “sticky stuff” by many.) What I’m saying is, I believe there might be some very high emotions exhibited when this race is over and some of those emotions may get a bit physical.

From this fan’s view there are two obvious things that will be going on during this race. We all know the first is winning and second is seeing which of the drivers close to the bubble, either above or below the cut line, will make gains on the rest. That is where the real race is. After the last couple of weeks, it is anybody’s guess which of them might come away from Bristol above the cut line of sixteenth.
Two drivers are particularly struggling and it seems no matter which of them appears to get a break, the other one manages to have problems and keep the points close. I’m sure you know I’m talking about Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. They have both been trying very hard to stay in the top sixteen and both have had unbelievably bad finishes and both are still hovering right around the dreaded bubble spot.

At Watkins Glen, Jimmie Johnson looked to have the opportunity to make gains on Bowyer’s bad day only to have his hopes dashed by spinning into the tire barrier. Last week, it looked as though Clint was going to make major gains on Jimmie and then he, too, made a trip into the wall (just a racing incident) and managed to have a worse day than Jimmie. That’s the kind of stuff that’s been going on for both of them and it has made everything a whole lot more interesting and pressure packed. From my view, although it isn’t likely, it is possible neither them will make the playoffs. Their problem could be solved with a win and both of them are capable of winning at Bristol.

It still appears the Fords and Toyotas have, at least, a little advantage over the Chevys and that could spell trouble when it comes down to making the playoffs and winning the championship. Yeah, I know there are some Chevys already in the playoffs but I’m not so sure they will be in the final four. (Ok, I know it may be a little early to be making that kind of prediction, but they just haven’t shown the consistency and strength of the Toyotas and Fords.)

So… the big question for this “Saturday Night under the lights” is, who is going to win? Will it be someone already in by points but no wins in 2019 or will it be someone not in by points or wins? Man, I just don’t know but, it sure has gotten interesting and I don’t expect that to change until Bristol, Darlington and Indy are in the books. I don’t think we’ll know who’s in the playoffs until the very end of all three of those. Hang on! It looks like it’s going to be a wild ride all the way…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 17, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The MENCS Teams Will Be Flatout At MIS from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Yeah, you can go ahead and say it. I can take it (and I agree with you at least somewhat.) I know the title of this one is a little cliché and probably sounds a little cheesy and awkward. The meaning won’t change though, no matter how it’s worded.

With the reduced 550 hp package the Cup teams will be running this weekend, the racing will be, “Flatout” and the starts and re-starts will be fast and furious as the drivers take things to the limit to gain advantage over as many as they can. At Michigan International Speedway this weekend, I guess you could say it is going to be all about passing before you get passed and gaining as many spots as you can before the aero starts to affect you. In short, pass as many as you can and try to get into clean air.

So, what’s your opinion? Do you think the drivers around the bubble area are feeling the heat? Well, here’s my opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much emotion and tempers flaring as I have witnessed this season. Think about it. Don’t you think it has become extremely intense over the last several weeks?

Take Jimmie Johnson, for example. A lot of the talk this week has been about how upset he was with the move by Ryan Blaney at The Glen that cost Jimmie a good finish. We’ve heard it over and over again since the incident, of how many have NEVER seen him as upset as he was. Apparently, it may not be over yet and that could spell trouble for both of them if things carry over onto the track. It may not happen at MIS but, it may happen at a shorter track.

From this fan’s view, it is understandable. Jimmie had put himself in a position to take advantage of Clint Bowyer’s struggles and move into a more solid position in the playoff standings. Ryan’s bump definitely put an end to that possibility. The other part is that the seven time Cup Champ has been struggling over most of the last year and a half and this fan thinks it is definitely beginning to weigh on him. It is good to see some of the fire and intensity show up. It tells me he isn’t done with going for championship number eight. It may not happen this year, but…

The Johnson/Blaney incident wasn’t the only one at The Glen. There was another that brought loud cheers from the stands. Yeah… I know you know which one I’m talking about. That’s right. It was the one between Kyle Bush and Darryl “Bubba” Wallace. I don’t think it’s just this fan’s view but, there is a reason why the response was so great. (Well, this is my opinion anyway.) It’s because, more often than not, Kyle is a pain in the… well… how do I make this G rated? Awww, let’s just say he can be a pain in the backside.

Look, with my saying that, I am not taking anything away from his talent as driver or as a person. He is one of the most talented drivers ever in NASCAR and he will continue to be. It’s just that, from this fan’s view, when something happens, it is either someone else’s fault, (like with William Byron on the second lap at The Glen), or if it turns out in his favor, he thinks it’s just racing and “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” When it goes against him, well, that’s a completely different thing. He is in a bad mood and doesn’t want to talk about it or be interviewed. Hey, it’s not that I don’t understand the intensity and emotions, I’m just offering my opinion and saying that’s why the crowd in the stands reacted the way they did with the incident between him and Wallace. (I have to be honest here… I reacted the same as the crowd.)

From this fan’s view, one thing the rule packages, making the playoffs and the manufacturer struggles to be more competitive has done is add to the over-all intensity in the Cup Series. I don’t think it is any one thing in particular of the things I just mentioned but making the top sixteen for the playoffs has certainly moved to the top of the list in making things a bit more “interesting” along with all of them trying to earn playoff points.

So even though the drivers involved in the disagreements have had their discussions and, “worked it all out” between them, this fan isn’t so sure everything is over. I think there is too much riding on the bubble group, the playoff points and the regular season battle between Joey Logano and Kyle Bush.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this race will be as exciting and dramatic as the last few have been, but I do think it will be a better race than I thought it might be after the first practice started. This may be a race that is more like the ones at Daytona or Talladega than a normal Michigan race. The Chevys may actually have a chance of winning this one over the Fords and the Toyotas. I’m not really expecting that. I do think they’ll make it interesting though. It’s all going to depend strategy, fuel mileage and clean air…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 10, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Who Will Win At The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take to the track on Sunday afternoon, there are several somebodies that really need a win in 2019 at The Glen. The question is, who will win at the Glen and will it be someone that needs the win to lock themselves into the playoffs or will it be someone else?

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. The playoff picture is really coming into focus and there is a real traffic jam at, or near, the cutoff spot of sixteenth. There are several that really need a good finish at The Glen and not all of those are pressing the envelope to get in, but they are pressing to stay in the top sixteen. It goes without saying the emotions are elevated and the drama is more evident than ever.

There are four or five that hog the conversation every week and, well, at least from this fan’s view, it does make every race very interesting. Now, I’m not one to mince words – well, at least not on a regular basis – but not all of the drama and excitement has been for the win at the end of the races the last couple of weeks. Some of it has taken place a little further back in the pack and some of it has centered around problems even before the race begins. Yeah, several have had major difficulties in practice and qualifying and it has affected where they start and probably a little bit of where they finish. Others? Well let’s just say they’ve had some problems in passing inspections. I won’t mention any names because we all know which ones they are but, suffice it to say, there are more than a couple.

The big news this week has been about the crew chief change over at Hendrick Motor-Sports for the #48 Chevy of Jimmie Johnson. It goes without saying he has been struggling most of the season and he is now just outside the top sixteen for the playoffs. He is twelve points behind Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman and the last couple of weeks have been a struggle for him. Yeah, I know he won the second stage last weekend but that was his first stage win and when all was said and done, he finished fifteenth at the end. Yes, he did gain five points on the two ahead of him with that finish but he needs more. In fact, it would really help if he took his first win at The Glen in his career this weekend with his new crew chief. Looking at his recent stats for The Glen, it isn’t likely he’ll win simply because he hasn’t done all that well in the last several years. Still, he is a seven-time Cup Champion and we all know he knows not only how to drive but how to win.

The Glen is a tough road course and there are places around the track that anyone could get themselves into trouble. It has happened to some of the best and I don’t see any reason why it may not be a factor this weekend. Last year’s winner, Chase Elliott is looking to repeat but he has really struggled over the last several weeks, especially the last two. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t repeat. I’m just saying they’re going to have to step it up a notch over what the last couple of weeks have been like.

Okay, let’s take a quick look at a couple of others that need a win at The Glen. The first
from my view is Kyle Larson. Sure, I know he’s about thirty-five points ahead of Bowyer and Newman, but with the way his luck has been running, he needs a win to solidify his playoff spot and then maybe he and his team can focus on just how they will approach the playoffs. Besides, thirty-five points isn’t much with the amount of races left before the playoffs.

Another is Daniel Suarez. He is just twenty-one points behind Jimmie Johnson in eighteenth spot. A win would immediately move him into the playoffs along with his other SHR teammates. Of the four SHR teams, he is the only one outside of the top sixteen. Go ahead. Think back over the last several weeks of racing and tell me, how aggressive has he been. Mm-Hm, that’s exactly what I was thinking. His aggressiveness on the track (and sometimes off) has been as elevated as his emotions. He can’t really afford to have another bad finish or two. Well, that is, if he doesn’t win a race between now and the playoffs.

The problem with things being so tight around the bubble area of the standings is that it only takes a DNF from any one or more of the five I’ve mentioned and everything about the playoffs can change for those close to the cut. The same goes for a win from any one or more of the five in the weeks before the playoffs. If anyone thinks that stress, aggression and emotional levels aren’t at a heightened level just doesn’t get it. All of the drivers in the series want to win and they want to win this weekend at The Glen, especially those wanting to make it into the playoffs. The problem is, only one of them can.

So… who will win at The Glen this weekend? I’m not really sure but, I know it could get rough out there and, as far as this fan is concerned, this one should be intense in every way. Whether you talk about strategy, driver aggression or pit crew performance, this could be one of the best we’ve seen at The Glen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 3, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated