MENCS Take It To Bristol from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The MENCS teams take it to Bristol this weekend, OR, maybe I should say Bristol takes it to the MENCS teams. I don’t know which is best, but I do know that Bristol is in a class by itself. That’s not to say other tracks aren’t in their own class but, well, Bristol is Bristol. (Okay I admit I’m trying extremely hard not to say, “It’s Bristol, baby!!)

Yeah, it’s true. That phrase has been used and re-used so often that it really is what many NASCAR fans think first when the MENCS teams head to Bristol. Go ahead and try it yourself. You won’t have to search very far to find someone that will use that phrase if you just ask where the MENCS teams are racing or what they’re expecting the racing to be like for the weekend. Depending on how you look at it, truer words have hardly ever been spoken about a track on a regular basis – it really is “Bristol baby!”

It does look like the Chevys are making headway on their quest for more speed and, after two weeks of being pole winner and front row starters, there may be some hope for them to finish at, or near, the front when the checkered flag drops in the not-so-distant future. Jimmie Johnson on the pole last weekend and Chase Elliott this weekend with teammate William Byron starting outside pole says Hendrick Motorsports is finally realizing some better results in this 2019 MENCS season. (Well, at least from this fan’s view. I guess being a long time HMS follower and fan, I could add, it’s about time.) No matter though, I was a Chevy fan a long time before and I am just happy the Chevys are showing some potential in their second year of working with the Camaro. Been waiting a while now…

From my view, the Chevys aren’t the only ones struggling at least somewhat this season. One of the strongest performers last season was Kevin Harvick and he hasn’t lived up to expectations for him and his team and teammates so far this season. Everyone expected the Fords to struggle a little with their new Mustang body style but not many expected SHR teams to be outperformed as much as they have by the Penske teams. Now it’s not as bad as I just made it sound but, the Penske teams are running very good. Of course, they’re all being outperformed by the Joe Gibbs Toyotas so far this season.

Taking a quick look back at last weekend, from this fan’s view, it was definitely better racing overall. I don’t know, maybe it was because the Chevys showed some life last weekend even though they didn’t win. (Sorry to let that Chevy thing show up again but, after all, I am a fan and as a fan, I would really like to see a Chevy in Victory Lane at least once before too much more of the season passes. Of course, as a Chevy fan I do have a preference as to which one I would like to see there but, at least a Chevy winning would be good.)

So far this season, NASCAR’s attempt to improve the qualifying disasters has, from this fan’s view, been shy of actual good results. Probably this weekend was the closest we’ve seen to improvement, but it still has that boring aspect to it. Of course, I don’t think that tells us that much about improvement or lack thereof. That will probably have to wait until a larger track or road courses but, I do have my own thoughts of how they can improve the situation.

First of all, they should eliminate the staging area all together. If you pull out, you go take your lap or laps. As it is, they are trying to negate the effect of someone having an advantage over another but, by doing so, they are giving the advantage to anyone not going out first. If they want to continue qualifying as they do presently, my remedy is to draw pills to see who goes first and they have to pull out in that order and continue on to take their time.

Of course, I do know there are some complications to that but those can be solved by timing. As it is, they don’t need ten minutes for two stages of qualifying and five minutes for the last stage because hardly anyone pulls out to qualify until under five minutes anyway. One possibility is that they have thirty to forty seconds to follow the driver in front of them or they are disqualified. In my opinion, this would add real drama to the qualifying sessions and keep them short for the TV coverage. (Hey look, there’s hardly any body in the stands for qualifying anyway, at least from my observations, so it’s not about them. I don’t know, maybe they want to return to single car qualifying or go by points every week. Could be they should try both of those at least once and see how that works. Could it be any worse??) Oh well, that’s my two cents on that issue…

No matter what way they determine to go in the future for qualifying, it won’t change the racing at Bristol. It has been and probably will always be a high speed, high emotion and action-packed race and one always worth watching right down to the final checkered flag. After all, it IS Bristol, baby…!!!

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 6, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

MENCS Takes On Texas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

You’ve heard it said many times I’m sure. Texas Motor Speedway is just another one of those cookie cutter mile-and-a-half tracks and they’re all pretty much the same. I mean, we have so many of them in an MENCS season, the results will probably be pretty much the same as they’ve been and it will probably be another weekend that the Fords and Toyotas sweep the top spots.

Well… that may have been the case before the MENCS teams arrived at Texas for this weekend but there does seem to be a little bit of hope for the Chevys making a run for the checkers on Sunday. Even though there are still 2 practices left (at the time of this writing), the Chevys have occupied more of the top spots as far as lap times go and, from this fan’s view, that is a good thing and I am sure it is encouraging for all Chevy fans. We haven’t had a lot to get excited about so far this season, but, that doesn’t mean we don’t expect them to keep on getting better.

Last week at Martinsville, Chase Elliott finished second and that was somewhat encouraging, at least for the Hendrick teams, even though he was the only one of them that could give Brad Keselowski a run for the money for most of the day. I mean, seven-time champ, Jimmie Johnson finished three laps down. Say what you will but that could not have (and probably did not) set well with him, his team or his boss, Rick Hendrick. In fact, the way the Hendrick teams have struggled so far this season, I don’t think it is setting well with any of the teams – it’s just not like them to be this far behind two years in a row. True, they were making headway near the middle and end of last season but fell back behind again with the new season and its rule changes.

All of that aside, Martinsville was a typical short track race and had the usual and expected short track emotions and action. It was a pleasant change from the humdrum racing so far this season – (well, at least from this fan’s view.)

Okay, let me get back to Texas…

Earlier I was saying what many say about the mile-and-a half tracks frequented by the NASCAR teams and how they are so similar – you know, cookie cutter. Well, Texas is different and it has a character and feel all its own. Most, if not all, of the drivers look at it that way. It is challenging in its own ways and more than just in the way it is designed. Different banking in turns 3 and 4 than in 1 and 2. The exits from the turns are different and require the drivers to “remember” which one they are in. That may sound funny but, after a few hundred of the five hundred miles, fatigue can set in and cause lapses in their rhythm and judgement. Many have tested the wall over time at the Texas Motor Speedway and the cost is usually either finishing poorly or not at all.

With the performance of the Chevys in the early practice and qualifying, things could look different at the end of the day Sunday afternoon. Seven-time Champ, Jimmie Johnson taking the pole position for the first time in a long time and William Byron taking the outside pole position is a real attention getter for the start of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 for Sunday. Admittedly, I am writing this before the Saturday practices and things could change but, the Hendrick Chevys do look good so far this weekend. Jimmie Johnson sitting on the pole is a major jump and encouragement after last weekend’s disappointing (and from my view, embarrassing) three lap down finish. In fact, this is the first time all of the Chevys have shown this much speed compared to the other makes in a while – quite a while.

From this fan’s view, it would be really nice to see someone other than Kyle Bush end up in Victory Lane this weekend. I know there is already talk of him making a sweep of the three series again this weekend but I hope that isn’t the case. I have nothing against Kyle and all of the wins he is racking up, but there are others I would like to see win in all three of the series. We all know he is talented and definitely on a roll but I do have to admit, I would really like to see someone else win. I know that isn’t what you Kyle Bush fans want to hear but it is my opinion and hope for this weekend.

I really want to see a Chevy win and, although I am somewhat partial to the Hendrick Chevys, I don’t care all that much which one wins as long as it is a Chevy and the end of the day.

Who knows. This just may be their weekend to shine brightly under the Texas skies…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 30, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

MENCS Taking On Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Finally… the MENCS teams return from the West coast swing and take it to the short track at Martinsville. In this fan’s opinion, there’s no better way to come back East than to take on the half mile short track, the first short track of the 2019 season. Other than Kyle Bush taking his 200th win and looking fairly dominate so far this season, it was a relatively uneventful trip… well… at least from this fan’s view.

I know I’ve been a bit critical of the season so far, but I have to say it just hasn’t been what I expected even with the new rule changes and everything. I had at least half hoped the Chevys would make a better showing and that the Fords would struggle at least a little bit with their new body style, the Mustang. Unfortunately, not too much has changed. The Chevys are still struggling to find speed and don’t look much different than they did last year. The Toyotas have built on their advancements from last season and the Fords… well… they just seem to be picking up pretty much from where they left off. Honestly, as a fan, it just hasn’t been all that exciting to me. In fact, I would go so far as to say it hasn’t been near as exciting as the talking heads and commentators have said it has been.

That could all change since short tracks have a tendency to generate more excitement and emotion than the tracks visited so far this season. That’s not to say the other tracks don’t have the same things, it’s just that short tracks are more fun all round for everybody, fans and drivers alike. There’s bumping, beating, blocking, banging and pushing, high emotions and, because of the way short tracks are, there can be tempers flaring and paybacks that may go back several races ago. Short tracks are where everything got started and they are still fan favorites.

One thing about short track racing is that drivers can lean on their competitors, bump them out of the way or be knocked out of the way and often come in and knock out a few dents and return to the track. Interestingly enough, that can all happen and they can still be competitive enough to possibly win at the end of the day. Now that’s what I call excitement, (maybe because short tracks were what we frequented and where my friends and I did our watching and racing.

Unfortunately, it looks like this might be another weekend that the Chevys don’t shine as brightly as they once did. The Fords and the Toyotas have looked very good in the practices and that could really spell defeat for the Chevys on Sunday afternoon. There is one that may make trouble for the Fords and Toyotas and that would be the Chip Ganassi Chevy of Kurt Bush. He has won at Martinsville before (even though it has been along time for him) and he has been the highest finishing Chevy almost every week, lately. Even his teammate, Kyle Larson hasn’t performed up to expectations considering how he did last season.

It does make this fan wonder, “Did the rule changes NASCAR made for this season just set things back for the Chevys from the advancements they made during last season?” It does sound strange that it would be that way but, maybe the changes did affect the already troubled Chevy Camaros more than the others.

As an avid Chevy fan, (after all, they were what I built and drove when I was racing), I have been quite suspicious of the Camaro since they moved to it. At first, the only place they seemed to be competitive was on the Super Speedways and after Daytona it was a while before they looked competitive much at all. The Hendrick Chevys, in particular, appear to have struggled the most (at least to this fan) and they still haven’t been all that impressive over a full season later. That’s not to say they haven’t had ANY speed, it’s just that they haven’t been showing up at, or near the front when it counts (like when it’s time to take the checkered flag.)

This is one race where there will likely be a whole lot less whining about not being able to pass slower cars BUT it is likely there will be some hotter tempers and emotional displays. That is one of many things I like about short track racing, especially at Martinsville. When it comes down to it, there will actually be racing for positons instead of a lot of complaining. Will there be enough emotion for there to be some fisticuffs? Well my friends, that is something we won’t know until the race starts and progresses to the end (and that’s a great reason to be watching which is what I will be doing.) How about you…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 23, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

ACS In Southern California Is Next Up from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The last stop for this western sweep of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is at the Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. If qualifying gives us any idea of what Sunday’s race will be like then… well… let’s just say it could be very different than the norm. I’m not saying it will be strange or weird but, it could be very different than what we as fans have come to expect from the racing at the speedway.

Just in case you missed it, the third round of qualifying basically didn’t happen. Because of the way qualifying is done these days, nobody made it around to take the green flag in time to beat the clock. Everyone waited until too late and qualifying reverted back to the way they finished in the second round giving Austin Dillon the pole. In all honesty, from this fan’s view it was much more frustrating than it was exciting and really quite a let down. (At least to this fan it was.)

It’s not that I don’t like the way qualifying takes place, it’s just that I don’t see the purpose of even having qualifying if no one wants to be the first one on the track. Their reasoning was they needed to be able to draft to get their top speed and actually go for the pole. In my opinion, they might as well go back to having single car, three hour qualifying sessions or just line up according to points position and see how that goes. Can’t be much different than it was this time.

Naturally, at this time is when I go into my minor “rant mode” and I still want to give my opinion of last week’s race at Phoenix even though my overall opinion hasn’t changed all that much yet.

To be honest, as a fan I have been relatively disappointed with the racing so far this season. I can’t really point to any one reason but I do know it has been tough to stay interested when most of the real racing happens during the starts and restarts after cautions or the end of the stages. One thing that bothers me week in and week out is how the talking heads keep saying how exciting the racing has been this season. There have been times I really don’t think they are watching the same races I am. When they were in Vegas there was talk of how exciting the restarts would be. The only problem was they only had re-starts after the stages were done and that wasn’t very exciting, (at least not to me.)

Last weekend at Phoenix they had a plethora of cautions and plenty of restarts. According to some, that made the race really exciting. (Well, at least for a few laps at those times anyway.) That’s not necessarily the way I saw it and I wasn’t alone. In fact, I had a conversation with a customer/acquaintance and we basically agreed on the quality of racing this season. He said there just isn’t the same intensity as in years past. (Hey, he brought it up first, it wasn’t just me thinking out loud.) We both agreed it doesn’t have to do with the new rule changes for this season. It just seems that something is different but neither of us could put our finger on what it is exactly. Oh, and by the way, we both agreed there seems to be a lot whining going on this year.

Anyway, this weekend might be just a little different. Everyone seems to be wondering if Kyle Bush is going to win another one. Whether he ties or surpasses Richard Petty’s 200 victories this weekend isn’t all that important to me. Records are made to be broken and he is a very talented driver. I don’t really compare the two and their number of wins. They were, and are, great drivers and both have made a definite impact on the sport, they were just in different eras. The times and technology may change but talent is talent.

Probably the biggest question in my mind for this weekend is, “Will this be the weekend that the Chevys begin to actually show up at the end of a race?” This may be a new year, new season and new rules but their struggle continues. The Fords and the Toyotas seem to have picked up where they left off last season (even with the new rules changes) and I guess you could say the same thing about the Chevys. They just haven’t shown the same results as the other two makes and, as I said last season and still say this season, the Camaro just hasn’t proved to be a good choice for some reason or another. Not that they haven’t shown speed at times, but they just haven’t shown it when it counts – like when the checkered flag drops at the end of the race, declaring the Victor.

I don’t know… maybe the racing to this fan just isn’t as good as it was because the Chevys aren’t winning (or even showing they can win.)

Wait a minute! Does that sound like I’m whining…?

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

Week Two Of The Swing Out West Is At Phoenix from a NASCAR Fan’s View

No matter how you look at it, the season for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been filled with changes. From the first weeks in Daytona to the ISM Raceway at Phoenix, there have been changes to the horsepower, the downforce and other things, making it a very interesting time for the MENCS teams. It has to have been a real stressful and trying time for the crew chiefs and engineers in particular with every weekend being just a little different. I guess we could also include the drivers along with them since they have had to adapt to the new feel and horsepower changes to their driving style. All of it has made life very interesting for all of them I’m sure.

Before getting in to the talking about this weekend’s race, I just have to mention a few thoughts about last weekend at Vegas.

Without being too critical of the racing so far this season, I have to admit I don’t see it the way many of the talking heads and others do. All of the changes to the cars this season were supposed to make the racing better and closer but, at least so far, I haven’t seen all that much change. If you listen to some, they say how exciting the racing has been even going so far as to say it has never been better. Others give their opinion of the overall race and still talk about how “exciting” and close it has been.

Look… I’m not trying to cause a ruckus, be overly critical or anything like that but, I just haven’t been impressed by the racing all that much so far. Oh sure, there have been moments that could be considered “exciting,” but for the most part, (at least from this fan’s view), I just haven’t seen it. Yeah, they still press to get points near the end of the stages and still want to win at the end but, at least from my view, the races have been relatively lack-luster. Not that there haven’t been moments. It’s just that it’s been quite a bit different than even last season. It seems that the intensity is missing, (except may be at the restarts.)

Now maybe it’s just me but I have seen a lot of griping and complaining about how some drivers just won’t get out of the way of one driver or another and they just can’t pass or they’re being held up from being able to chase down the leader. I mean, come on! Isn’t that why we call it racing? Isn’t the idea supposed to be about finding a way to move past those holding a driver (or drivers) up.

I realize that may sound like I’m talking about bumper cars but, I’m not. There are ways to let a slower driver know your intentions and, like I said in last week’s article, there’s always the, “I tried you high, I tried you low and them it was time for you to go.” Eventually it comes down to out-driving or moving someone. That doesn’t mean a driver has to wreck another one. It does mean they have to use measured aggression, knowing full well that they will be raced the way they race. That may be a fine line and, once it’s crossed, it usually opens up a whole new can of worms (or, it could start a whole new set of rivalries. Who knows?)

(Well, now that I’ve made that point, let me move back to ISM Raceway at Phoenix.) It was my hope that the Ford’s moving to the Mustangs might be a little bit of an equalizing factor with the Chevys and, to a lesser degree, the Toyotas. As it turns out, that hasn’t been the case and the Fords have picked up right where they left off last season. From this fan’s view, the Fords appear to have an advantage, at least for the present, and that may or may not make things hard for Chevy fans wanting to see a Chevy in Victory Lane.

If there are any signs of how the race Sunday afternoon might go, it would be that the Fords (and Toyotas for that matter) will likely finish ahead of the Chevys again. Now I am not making a definite prediction but, I am saying there are several drivers looking very strong going into Sunday’s race and unfortunately, they aren’t in Chevys.

Now perhaps the return of horsepower along with the increased downforce available this weekend at Phoenix could make everyone happier. The drivers seem to be happier to have the horsepower back along with the increase in downforce and maybe they will gripe less and pass more without so much whining. (Hey, I’m just saying…)

Now that I’ve said all of this, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Chevys prove me wrong. Chase Elliott looked very good in practice and qualifying and could be the first Chevy to win in 2019. Of course, there’s Kyle Larson along with him and he is a likely competitor as well. I can’t discount the RCR teams either since they have also shown strength in the last couple of weeks. One thing to consider is there is a very good possibility there could be an unexpected winner this weekend and even more as the season continues. Personally, this fan would like to see someone other than a Ford driver in Victory Lane but, that just may not happen. Well… at least not yet…

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

MENCS Takes It To Las Vegas from a NASCAR Fan’s View

This is week three of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and it is the third week of changes to the cars. Beyond that, it is the first week of the full aero package we’ll see for the remainder of the season, depending on which tracks they’re at. From listening to all the buzz, many say this is the first real race of the season. Daytona is uniquely Daytona and Atlanta is looked at as one of a kind so, maybe what they say about Las Vegas being the first real race – or test of the new rules package – is true. It is also true that this is week one of three races out west.

Before I talk about the race this weekend at Vegas, let’s take a quick look back at last weekend at Atlanta. There are several things I’ve heard mentioned since the race at Atlanta and, although I understand what they’re talking about, I have a different opinion than those I heard offering their opinion on a couple of those things.

First, I have to bring up my concerns about the Chevy Camaros. From this fan’s view, it still appears the Chevys still don’t perform as well as the Fords even though the Fords are running their new Mustang body style. With the performance of the Hendrick Chevys at Daytona, it did appear they had made headway in speed and handling but, Atlanta proved to be a totally different story for them.

Sure, I know Kyle Larson led many laps in his Camaro but, he had that pit road problem and just couldn’t make it back to the front. I have heard many say that they don’t think it is a Camaro problem it is a Hendrick problem but I ‘m just not so sure I agree. I think Larson’s performance (with Hendrick Power under the hood) showed it’s not just Hendrick but the Camaros being so aero dependent that, when they get back in the pack a bit, they just don’t handle as well as the Fords (or the Camrys for that matter.) Like I said, that’s the way it looks from my view and I could be wrong but, they still look to be a little disadvantaged compared to the others.

My second point of disagreement is (and maybe it’s just me) but, it does seem we have a few “whiners” rising up in the ranks. In particular, two that stand out in my mind would be Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. I know there will be many that disagree with me – or probably don’t see it the same as I do – but over the first two races of the season, both of them have been heard criticizing people that didn’t make it easier for them to pass them or didn’t get help from them as they felt they should.

Two incidents that stand out in my mind would be Joey Logano and Michael McDowell and Truex Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. For whatever reason, these two past champions think everyone is supposed to just move over and let them go by or push them to the win. It is pretty obvious, not every driver agrees with them. My one question to them would be, “What ever happened to having to race for the win?” Just because someone doesn’t want to make it easy for them doesn’t really mean a whole lot to me. (I think of the reputation of being hard to pass Ryan Newman has acquired over the years. There are very few instances he will just move over to let someone pass him.)
Naturally, in usual fashion, that also reminds me of a line from a story someone told when I was racing. It goes like this (edited version, of course.) “Look cotton-picker, I tried you high and I tried you low and then it was time for you to go…” Whether you and I like it or not, the chrome bumper is a tool in the racer’s toolbox…

I could go on but I’ll save some of my thoughts for another time. Right now, it’s back to Vegas.

The race this weekend at Vegas is going to be unique in the sense that the changes made to the cars are going to be applied over more than just one weekend. In some ways, the teams’ notebooks don’t really have much to refer to. We all know the drivers and their teams learn fast but, we as fan’s will probably be in for more than a few surprises. I’m not sure what those surprises will be but I do know they will be there.

At the time of this writing, the first MENCS Saturday practice was rained out and the lack of track time could prove to make Sunday’s race even more interesting. I’m not sure if this could be the start of making the racing more interesting and intense or whether it will be a time when certain drivers begin to shine either for the first time or where the “old veterans” begin to shine again. I’m not picking any favorites for this one but I’m not ruling anyone out either. In this, the first race of the three races out west, I do think the drivers and teams are going to learn a lot about what they will face over the two that follow this one as well as for the races ahead in the season.

So… rather than ask what driver you think will win, I would rather ask you (and myself, too), which brand do you think is going to perform and come away with the most wins over the next three races? Will it be the Fords? The Camrys? Oh come on, please, won’t someone stick their neck out and say the Chevys…?

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

MENCS Takes It To Atlanta from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Wow! Less horsepower, more downforce and very little difference in speed. Well, at least that is the first impression of this NASCAR fan. I don’t know about you but I was more than a little surprised at the results so far for the new car and engine specs for the MENCS teams. Although there are still a lot of unknowns about how things will go, from this fan’s view, it looks like this will likely be the usual race for the Atlanta track.

Before I talk more about my view of this Atlanta race, I have to make a few comments about the race last weekend at Daytona. You may remember I was concerned that it might be a race of single file, follow the leader type race and the only thing that might break up the monotony of the 500 miles would be the stages and the final laps of all three. Since the race finished, many have talked about how exciting of a race it was. I’m sorry, but from my view, it wasn’t anything more than what I thought it might be.

Okay, so instead of running single file, they ran two wide and sometimes three but there wasn’t a lot of action until the final lap or two of the first and second stages. I have to say, and this is my view, it was like watching paint dry for many laps throughout much of the race. If it hadn’t been for the “Big One” and a few other skirmishes in the final stage, this might have been the most unexciting Daytona 500 I remember in recent times.

Another thing that kinda griped me was made quite obvious by Joey Logano’s attitude when Michael McDowell chose to go with Kyle Bush in a Toyota rather than him in Ford on the final lap, as though it was all about him and him winning. Admittedly I’m not that much of a Joey Logano fan, but NASCAR is not just about what is best for him and I don’t think he deserves any special privileges just because he is last year’s Champion. I don’t fault McDowell at all and I can’t help but wonder if the roles were reversed what decision Logano may have made. Oh, and by the way, I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I’m not so sure how I like or dislike the Ford’s with Ford’s, Toyotas with Toyotas or Chevys with Chevys. Sure, I admit the brands of the cars are important, but for me, I follow the drivers much more than the brands (even though I am a big Chevy fan and always have been.) To be clear, I like other drivers than just the ones in Chevys.

Oh well, enough about last week at Daytona and back to Atlanta this weekend.

I think this race at Atlanta this weekend might be the same and yet different than the normal or usual one. With the new rules package and the way some of the drivers and teams have stepped up their games, this could be a breakout race for some that aren’t mentioned that much. I do expect the usual teams will be making themselves visible but I also think some of the relative unknowns could also begin to shine this weekend. Which ones am I talking about? Well, that’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it.

Drivers like Michael McDowell, Matt Dibenedetto, David Ragan and Ryan Preece have all made a few waves over the last couple of weeks. That’s not to say they have arrived, but it does say there is an elevation of competition in some of the smaller teams associated with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I know you’ve heard at least three of these names before, but we may be hearing more about them as the season progresses along with some others.

Still, it is hard to go against the proven old veterans and high performers at Atlanta. I can’t argue with the performance of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush, Jimmie Johnson or several others over the last several years at this track. They all have to be considered as contenders when it comes down to the final laps because they are usually there. That’s not to say one of them will win but we all know one of them could.

I’m not about to try and pick a winner in this one, (well, not the time of this writing anyway.) There are a few names I haven’t mentioned yet but they could take the win. Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and, yes, even Joey Logano should be considered contenders for this one. In fact, I would go so far as to say there could be a surprise winner for the “Folds of Honor – Quik Trip 500” if for no other reason than the horsepower and downforce changes instituted for the first time this weekend. Then again, well, it could just be another race at Atlanta… reckon we’ll have to watch to find out, huh…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 23, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The 2019 Daytona 500 Kicks Off the New Season from a NASCAR Fan’s View

This Sunday afternoon the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series kicks off it’s new season. It isn’t billed as, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – that honor belongs to The Indianapolis 500. It is big though and some say it is even bigger than the Championship Race at Homestead in November. Now, I’m not going to get into that here but, the Daytona 500 is without question one of the biggest NASCAR events of the whole season.

Look, I’m not saying other races aren’t important, but many times people spend a lot more time talking about this couple of weekends of the season than they do about most any race of the regular season. After all, it does kick off the season for the Gander Outdoor Series Trucks, the Xfinity Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and all in one place.

I won’t bore you with a long dissertation on the importance, or the lack thereof, of the Daytona 500 or any of the other series’ races; the talking heads have covered just about every aspect of these races we can think of. That isn’t a cut or negative statement about the coverage so far, most of it has been interesting or at the very least, entertaining. what I would like to do is give you a couple of things I have been thinking or wondering about as I have watched many of the events so far this week. Believe me, this won’t take long…

First, it looks like the Ford camps are picking up where they left off last season. They do look plenty strong even though they have a new Mustang body to work with. In this fan’s opinion, (and that’s all it is, my opinion), they seem to have done a better job of picking a body style than the Chevy camps did last year. As a Chevy fan, I hoped they might have a little more trouble and it would be more of an equalizing factor. Apparently, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with again this season.

Second, along with their performance so far in the Duels and practices this week, they seem to be determined to work together to make sure a Blue Oval ends up in Victory Lane at the end of the day. That may change for both the Toyotas and Chevys when it comes to race day but we won’t really know much about that until the 500 is in the books.

Just to keep this short and to the point, my biggest concern is that there is going to be lot of single file, follow the leader type racing rather than what we have become more accustomed to in recent times on a restrictor plate track. From this fan’s view, one of the things about restrictor plate racing is the door to door and bumper to bumper racing. Although I have mixed thoughts on the Duels and how exciting or unexciting they were, I see pretty much the same thing happening during the 500. The only thing that will break up the monotony of single file, wait till the last couple of laps to make a move will be the stages. At least that will mean three times during the race when the competition might heat up a bit. I hope I’m wrong, but from my view so far, I think I just may be right.

I do expect there will be at least one Big One and will be greatly surprised if one or more doesn’t happen. I won’t be disappointed if the Big One doesn’t happen but I do hope the racing is better than I saw in the Duels and that there is more action more often.

Hey, I’ve been a NASCAR fan for a long time and I will say this. Whatever happens, I will be watching…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 16, 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 In And One Will Win from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman

Well… this is it. This is for all the marbles in 2018. This is for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship and only four drivers are qualified to win it. Only one of them will.

There is something unique about the NASCAR Cup Championship. Many cars will be running the race but only four will be running the race to win the Championship. All of the others will be trying to win also but they cannot win the Championship. That’s what’s different about the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It is actually a race where it is possible to have two winners. One will win the Championship but that one only has to beat the other three qualified for the Championship four not the race. That means there can actually be two different winners by Sunday evening – one winning the Championship and one winning the race. Wow! That really sounds complicated but, at the same time, it sounds exciting and dramatic.

There has been a lot of talk about which of the four is the favorite to win. Maybe I should clarify by saying the one expected to win. If you ask Joey Logano, he will tell you he is the favorite. As for the others, well… since they’ve been there before, they will tell you they feel good about their chances but it is a long race.

Now, I’m not so sure I agree with Joey Logano’s assessment of himself and his chances but it is a long race and someone will step up to the plate and show why they deserve to be the Monster energy NASCAR Cup Champion for 2018 and it could be him. All four of the contenders know they have to beat the other three to be named the 2018 Champion and you and I both know it is all about winning for them.

Where the wrench in the works comes into play is because of all the other drivers and teams able to run for the race win. With this format, the Champion is determined by a race within a race and even though the four Championship contenders can win, there are a number of other drivers that can win or cause and accident or cause problems for the four contenders in some form or other.

For just a minute, let’s just consider some of the ones that could win the race Sunday afternoon but aren’t qualified to win the Championship.

First on the list for me would be Kurt Bush. After his disappointment last weekend, he is very motivated to win this weekend. He has the speed and he knows how to be there when it counts and he has to be considered as a possible winner of the race. Another would be Brad Keselowski. He is another that showed good speed in practice and could also contend for the win.

How about Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott? (Wow! That sounds strange to be talking about Chevys amongst all the Fords as possible winners of the Ford Ecoboost 400 especially with the way the Fords have performed this season. I only mention it because the Chevys have struggled so much during the regular season this year.) The best reason I can give for mentioning these two is because they have been the strongest running Chevys in the latter part of the season and it is possible one of them could win the race when it’s over Sunday night. Probably kinda long shots at best but still possible.

Along with all of those are Aric Almirola, Eric Jones, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and a host of others. Any one of these can win the race – not the Championship – and still finish off the year with motivation for next year. Two of them are trying to continue their streak of winning at least one race every year and that would be Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. You know for sure they intend to do everything they can to continue that streak. I have to admit, in this fan’s opinion I would like to see one of them do so and – I’m just being honest here – I’m pulling for it to be Jimmie Johnson over Denny Hamlin but I do admit, he has his work cut out for him.

No matter how you look at it, this Championship race is going to be full of all kinds of drama and most assuredly high emotions. All sentimentality aside, the winner of the race is most likely going to be one of the four contenders, either Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush, Martin Truex Jr. or Joey Logano. I have no idea how it will turn out, only my hope of how it will turn out.

In usual fashion, the final race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2018 season is for everything being on the line whether it’s someone unexpected winning the race or to crown the Champ for 2018. I’m sure it will be an intense race with lots of unkowns and plenty of drama. There could be two winners but only one Champion and we will know the name of that person when the final checkered flag is dropped declaring the winner Sunday night…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 17, 2018 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated