Sonoma Road Course With A New-Old Twist from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take on the road course at Sonoma. It will be the same old road course with a new twist on the old course layout. Of course, I know you’ve already heard they will running on the old layout of the track which includes the carousel and it hasn’t been used for the Cup Stock Cars of NASCAR in a very long time.

So, what is so special about the race at Sonoma this weekend? Well… I guess you could say there are several things and one of them has to do with Darrell Waltrip. He is retiring from the broadcast booth after this race on Sunday afternoon after almost twenty years in that part of the NASCAR scene. He hasn’t been in an actual race in a long time but has been around NASCAR for most of his life. His first race in what is now called the Cup series was at Talladega in 1972 and he was a very important factor for many years. (I was a fan of his for a long time, too.)

Another reason this race is special, (and not just this season), is because it is a challenging racetrack and demands a lot from the drivers and teams for the entirety of the race. To add to the challenge for the MENCS teams is that this is the first time in twenty years the series has used the carousel part of the track and it is the first time any of the present day drivers have driven the course in this fashion. That should make an always interesting Sonoma Road Course race even more interesting and it could open the door for someone that hasn’t won this season to win and that appears to be the way many are thinking.

Of course, we all know there are those that are expected to perform at, or near, the front and there are those many think WILL win simply because they have won in the past. From this fan’s view, I’m not at all sure which of them might win but I will say there are those I would rather see win than others.

I won’t go into that just yet but, I will say something I never thought I would say. “I’m tired of seeing the same few drivers win,” even though several years back, I liked it when my favorite driver was winning a lot of races. I couldn’t understand, then, why other fans felt the way I do now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that none of my favorite drivers are winning and it could be that the Chevys still struggle to find speed and track position when it counts, even after two years of working with the Camaro.

Yeah, I know they are making progress but I’ve been a Chevy fan for a long time and, in my opinion for whatever reason they chose the Camaro, I still think it was a bad choice and there is something about it that just doesn’t perform like the Fords and Toyotas on the track. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is but I don’t think it’s all about horsepower. That may have something to do with it but there is something about hooking it all up to the track that is different. I’m not an engineer, never claimed to be, but in my amateur opinion something makes the Chevy struggle more than the other two makes, even when they are out front in clean air. (Now that I’ve said all that, maybe it does have “a little” something to do with horsepower after all, even though NASCAR has limited the amount they can have…)

One thing about the race Sunday afternoon at Sonoma is that I think it will be much more interesting than the race at Michigan two weeks ago. The Sonoma track is narrow and yet fast in some areas even though the average speed is under 100 mph for this two plus mile circuit. To this fan, Michigan was a rather humdrum race and, if it hadn’t been for the cautions and restarts, it wouldn’t have had much action at all. I disagree with those that say it was a great race and heard more than one say it was great to see that the leader couldn’t pull away from the rest when they got out front. That didn’t make it interesting any more than the little bit of two and three wide racing there was. That may have been true but there was still a limited amount of passing and a lot of follow the leader.

It is likely that the usual and expected ones will run out front. To name a few would be the most talked about drivers like, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kurt and Kyle Bush. Personally though, this fan would really like to see someone win that hasn’t won so far this season. Though there are many that fall into that category, a few I would really like to see win would be David Ragan, Michael McDowell, William Byron, Alex Bowman and, yes, even Jimmie Johnson. Though the others mentioned are the most talked about, these have a good shot at winning on Sunday afternoon also. It all depends on how the strategies play out and how many mistakes AREN’T made…

Well… at least that’s this fan’s view…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 22, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

MENCS Take On High Speed Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well… it’s another one of those races that not too many are willing to admit how they think it will go. There are good reasons for that but the main one has to do with the fact this is the first time this package has been used at the Michigan International Speedway by the MENCS teams. As in recent previous weeks, there will be limited horsepower and maximum downforce and it should prove to be a very interesting race.

From this fan’s view, it looks like the Fords could have a very solid day if practice and qualifying give us any idea of performance for the race. I’ve never been one to put too much stock in qualifying times but, the Fords and Toyotas both appear to have a slight advantage over the Chevys. The Stewart/Haas teams do appear, at least so far, to be the fastest over the rest on the long runs and it could be a long day for those that can’t keep up the same pace.

Now I know you probably think Kyle Bush should have a chance at taking the win away from the Fords and I agree. That could be a real possibility with the way he’s been running over this first part of the season. Last weekend at Pocono, Kyle had the fastest car and, although he didn’t win going away from the rest, he did win handily. That could carry over to this Sunday afternoon but I’m not all that sure.

Since I’ve brought up the Pocono thing, it might be good time to offer my opinion of the race last weekend. (I know, I know… this is just about where I do this every week lately, huh?)

The race last weekend at Pocono was one of the more interesting ones there I have seen in recent times. To start off with, I wasn’t sure what the competition was going to look like but it turned out to be interesting all the way through. (Notice I didn’t say “very interesting.”) It really was a very good race but I have to be honest and say it wasn’t spectacular, but I admit, it was “very good.”

It is also my opinion, Kyle Bush wouldn’t have won it if Kevin Harvick and the #4 SHR team hadn’t beaten themselves. Yes, I admit, Kyle was fast but I’m not so sure he was going to beat Kevin Harvick without the error and part failure. Be that as it may, Kyle did win and was on the outside pole when the race started, so there is no doubt he had the speed needed to do what he did.

I have to admit, Kyle Bush is probably one of the best ever to sit in a MENCS stock car. He has a lot of talent along with a lot of desire to win. I know there will be a lot of you that disagree with me but not everything about him is all that great. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions. I’m not going to say he isn’t all that great because he is. He shows his talents and abilities week in and week out and not just in the Cup series. It all shows up in his win record and by where he usually finishes at the end of a race – often very near the front.

Yes, this fan thinks Kyle Bush is one of the best ever but this fan also thinks he is the biggest griper. If he’s not winning, he moans and groans and blames the cars and the 2019 NASCAR mandated rule package for his inability to win every race. Who knows, he might be right but someone wins with this same package even when he doesn’t.

Oh well… Back to this weekend’s race.

As I stated earlier, the Fords do look to be the ones to watch based on what I observed in the practice and qualifying sessions. Joey Logano took the pole position and there are a bunch of Fords in the top five and even in the top ten.

Unfortunately it appears the Chevys aren’t quite up to the task except for Kurt Bush. From this fan’s view, they just might struggle to gain spots on Sunday afternoon and even the Toyotas looked to be more competitive than the Chevys, especially the JGR Toyotas of Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin. They were particularly noticeable in the speed category compared to the Chevys.

Since this is an impound race, I’m sure the race will show much of what I’ve said here may not happen the way I think it will and is just because you can’t tell much from practice and qualifying. Still, I do believe this could be a banner day for the SHR Fords and the Penske Fords. Which of them might win is anybody’s guess and they might get beat by themselves or because of the way the cars were set up for qualifying as compared to race setup.

One thing is certain. The Michigan International Speedway is a high speed track and all of them will be running flat out, even in packs running two or three wide. If nothing else, it should prove to be very interesting to watch and, if there are a bunch of cautions and restarts, it could be anybody’s race, including someone driving a Chevy…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 8, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Pocono May Or May Not Be As Tricky This Time from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Once again, it’s time for the MENCS teams to take on the “Tricky Triangle” for the first of the two races there this summer. BUT it is still up in the air as to whether or not it will be as “tricky” this time around as in the past. With the latest rules package they have been using over the last several races with lots of downforce and which limits them to only 550 horsepower, this fan isn’t sure just how the racing will be on this long “what turn 4” racetrack. I’m not even sure the drivers and crews know how this one will go until it actually gets started.

From this fan’s view, practice didn’t tell us very much other than the speeds on the straights are down and the turn speeds are up. After paying close attention to qualifying, another thing was quite obvious and it had to do with speed through the turns. Once they gave up time in a turn to the other drivers, it was quite a gap to make up afterwards. That could give an idea of how the racing could go on Sunday (barring rain, that is) and it is another reason I just can’t figure out what kind of racing it’s going to be. Of course I realize no one really cares what I can figure out and I’m okay with that. What I do want to say is that I really do hope the racing is good and not just another follow the leader type of thing.

Now let me add, I don’t think it will be a runaway for one or two drivers but, with the way things go at times, chances are high that one person could dominate the whole race. Let me also add, it depends on which driver and team it might be that dominates that will make all the difference in whether I like it or not.

Taking a quick look back at the 600 at Charlotte last weekend, many people have stated they thought it was the best 600 ever. I can’t say that I disagree and it was a very interesting race for the entirety of the 600 miles.

My biggest question (along with many others) is, “Why was it that way. What might have been the reason or reasons for it being viewed that way?” Was it because of the package they ran with high downforce and marginalized horse power? Was it because there were four stages? Was it really just a better race or did it have to do with the sixteen cautions?

Well, I can’t answer for everybody but, I do have to give you my opinion. I think it had more to do with the multiple cautions along with the four stages resulting in a large number of restarts and closer racing which, in turn lead to a more interesting and exciting race. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

Some mentioned it was because this particular package NASCAR mandates is particularly good at night races. That also may be the case or, at least, one possibility but there is one other reason I would like to bring up. Although I know there are a lot of possible reasons for the more interesting and exciting racing with this particular package, I have another opinion to offer. It may just be my imagination, but it seems since they mandated the higher spoiler on the rear deck lid that it had at least something to do with equalizing the competition.

Before the higher spoiler, the Chevys had trouble keeping up with the Toyotas and Fords. Afterwards – and, admittedly, it could be coincidental – it seemed the Chevys immediately became more competitive. I realize all the teams put in a lot of work to go fast and the Toyotas and Fords have been faster than the Chevys for almost two seasons. Now we not only see the Chevys consistently qualifying at or near the front but, they are more competitive at the end of the races, too.

Okay, now that I’ve stated my view, I have to ask, “Will the racing be as interesting at Pocono with the same package they’ve been running (including at Charlotte and Kansas?) If all we have are the breaks at the stages and long green flag runs, I’m not so sure. I’m not saying that’s the way it will go, but it is a possibility. It is also possible there could be some extra cautions and that the race could be wrought with accidents. We haven’t really seen how they will run when they actually start the race and all of the drivers are jostling for position as the enter the first turn, head to turn two, the tunnel turn, and make a near 90 degree turn towards turn three (or that area that’s missing turn four.)

Just a thought a I close this out. William Byron has won his third pole starting position and I can’t help but wonder if he might not show us a repeat of Denny Hamlin back in his rookie year when he sat on the pole and won both races that year. Will this be Byron’s first win in the MENCS and at one of NASCAR’s trickiest tracks? Well, I’m not making any predictions but… let’s just say… um… It’s a possibility…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 1, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Coca-Cola 600 And The Memorial Day Salute from a NASCAR Fan’s View

It’s stock car racing’s longest race – 600 miles. It goes from late afternoon to evening and into the night. It will be hot, even later at night, and it is a tough race that will test the drivers and crews of every team. More than that, it is a spectacular salute to those that made the supreme sacrifice for us and NASCAR and the Charlotte Motor Speedway do it right. Though the reasons are many, it’s just another reason why I’m a NASCAR fan. We will always remember those that made the supreme sacrifice for us.

Say, how about William Byron in the Hendrick Motor Sports #24 Chevy taking the pole position? By taking the pole, he became the youngest driver ever to win the pole position for the 600 in NASCAR history. He continues to make a statement about how the Hendrick Chevys are turning the corner in performance along with his teammates.

As a Chevy fan, (and a fan of HMS), I have to admit it is good to see. I’m not sure how they will do in the 600 over all but they have made some real advances in becoming competitive again. Aside from how Byron has been doing, just look at the performance of Alex Bowman over the last few weeks. He has been in the hunt for wins with strong performances and second place finishes. I can’t help but wonder if this might turn out to be his first win in the Cup series.

The RCR and Ganassi Chevys are showing strength, too, and it is good to see all three makes beginning to tighten up the competition between themselves. Both Kurt Bush and Kyle Larson have looked good with Kurt being very consistent in the early season and Kyle Larson struggling through a lot of challenges to win a million dollars last weekend at this same track. Along with them, both Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric of RCR have been showing good speed and could end up contending for the win at the end of 600 miles.

From this fan’s view, the Fords once again look to be very strong and, in particular, the Stewart/Haas teams made a good showing in qualifying. Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez all qualified in the top ten. In fact, there were only three Chevys, one Toyota but six Fords qualifying in the top ten. There is no doubt in my mind all of the Fords will be competitive and the Toyotas won’t be content to sit back and watch the Chevys and Fords fight it out without joining in.

Okay, I really just can’t let the opportunity pass without giving my assessment of the All-Star race (AND continue this NASCAR fan’s view of Kyle Bush and happenings for him in recent races.)

But first – and I don’t say this lightly – last weekend was absolutely the best All-Star Race I have witnessed. I really don’t know if it had to do with the test aero package NASCAR had them use or if it was the way the stages were set up. Perhaps it was a combination of all of them but it was still a great race, very fitting for a Saturday night under the lights at Charlotte.

Of course not everyone was happy with the way things went and there was some complaining about several things even though there were no points on the line. That is one thing about the All-Star Race that never changes – it really is “All about the money.” It seemed to bother a few more than it bothered others. One of those bothered most was, Kyle Bush.

So, is it just me or is the only time we see Kyle happy is when he is winning. If he isn’t winning, from this fan’s view, he is generally whining. When he was winning earlier in the season he was smiling, had a spring in his step and generally seemed to be friendly to all. When he started finishing 2nd or further back – and once again, this is this fan’s view – he seemed to blame everything on the rules package NASCAR mandated for the cars. He says he thinks these are the worst cars he’s ever driven in his career and isn’t happy, which he is quick to let everyone know, including his team.

As a long time NASCAR fan and observer of many that have driven in the Cup Series, I can honestly say, Kyle, is one of the best to ever sit behind the wheel in a stock car. He can do things as a driver not all can do and has shown himself to be able to win in just about anything he drives. Maybe that’s what bothers me about his constant complaining and whining. He was running strong and won several races earlier in the season before the latest package and though he’s still running strong, he hasn’t won in a short while. He complains about the rules package, the aero and the cars in general but, he can’t seem to win over that person in front of him. Does that mean he will only be happy when the package they are all required to use suits his driving style? Can it be that even with his enormous talent he can’t seem to figure out how to drive and win with this package even though others have and can? Hey, I don’t mean to pick on Kyle so much but he does whine about a lot of things when he isn’t winning as often as he thinks he should.

That’s another reason I can’t wait for the Coca Cola 600 to get started late Sunday afternoon. There are a lot of great drivers taking to the track and one of them will win the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Will it be someone in a Chevy? Will it be someone from the Stewart/Haas teams or one of the other Ford teams? Maybe it will be someone in a Toyota like Kyle Bush or maybe it will someone else in a Toyota. Whose to say? I just wonder if… well… what if Kyle does win? What do you think he will have to say about the package then…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 25, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

All Stars Go For the Million At Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

No matter how you look at it, this definitely won’t be just another Saturday night under the lights. The All-Star race is special for fans and drivers alike. When you put a certain number of what are called the best drivers in the world in fast racecars on the 1½ mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway and hold a million-dollar carrot out in front of them, you can bet it will be a different and exciting night of racing. That’s the thing about the All-Star race. It’s all about fun and chasing the carrot more than anything else.

Lately there’s something NASCAR brings to this race to try out under racing conditions and it’s the same this year. There will be a few things different on the cars and it remains to be seen how it will affect the handling of the cars when they pull up to pass. Usually they stall out and the one with the advantage is the one out in clean air. Since that seems to be the biggest driver complaint – not being able to complete a pass – hopefully this will be step in the right direction.

So, what is it that makes the All-Star race different from all the others? Well… the biggest difference is that it is all or nothing. It’s about winning the million dollars and that’s about it. There are no points to be gained and finishing second or worse won’t really be remembered. The winner is the one that takes home the money – or at least him and the team take it home – and they get to bask in the glory of being the All-Star race winners until next year.

For just a moment, I just have to give my thoughts on last weekend’s race at Kansas. Many have stated it was the best race on a 1½ mile oval in the 2019 season. I have to agree with that and it was good to see something closer to real racing going on, with multiple grooves and side by side, two and three wide rather than so much follow-the-leader laps.

Another thing about Kansas was the performance of the Chevys. They are finally beginning to look like they can compete with the Fords and Toyotas and even on 1½ mile tracks, which have been their biggest weakness, particularly over the last two years. It looked like a Chevy was actually going to win it but, right at the end, Brad Keselowski managed to pull away on the final overtime restart and take it to Victory Lane. Alex Bowman finished second for the third race in a row and almost got his first win in Cup. the Hendrick Chevys are finally showing they can run up front even at the end of a race and three of the four HMS teams finished in the top six. That could mean they might make a race of it in the All-Star on Saturday night.

I have to admit, with the competition being so tight between all the manufacturers, the All-Star race could prove to be one of the best ever All-Star races in recent history. If last week at Kansas was a precursor to what might happen in Saturday night’s slugfest, well, let’s just say it should be intense. There will be chances taken that normally wouldn’t be seen and they will be coming from every driver on almost every lap in every stage.

Most importantly, the final fifteen lap stage will likely be a total slugfest and it will be interesting to see just which of them will cross the finish line in one piece and out front of the rest. We all know that it’s pretty much “anything goes” when it comes down to how the drivers will take it to their competitors. In the past it has sometimes gotten pretty rough and particularly when there are several cars coming to the checkered flag and it’s door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper.

Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I don’t think anyone is trying to intentionally hurt anyone but, sometimes the racing gets rougher than normal and some have been hurt in past years. Fortunately, most of the damage is to the cars and from high emotions accompanied by hot tempers and heated “discussions” as they survey their damage and loss. Will there be fisticuffs when all is said and done? Well… that remains to be seen, doesn’t it…

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

Kansas – Just Another Saturday Night Under The Lights from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well… here we are… just another Saturday night, under the lights. But, will it really be just another Saturday night under the lights at the Kansas Speedway? This is one weekend that many have been looking forward to, especially those in the Hendrick Chevys. What they really want to know is the answer to the question, “Have we really made advances in performance or are we only making improvements on what are called ‘specialty tracks’?”

It is a valid question and one that needs to be answered sooner than later since many of the tracks they face in a season are mile and a half tracks. If the Hendrick and other Chevy teams make a good showing at Kansas, it could mean they are making steps in the right direction. As it stands at the moment, they have proven they can perform well at the Super Speedway of Talladega and shorter tracks like Dover and Martinsville but, those just aren’t the same as the one and a half mile tracks they will face this weekend and those coming in the near future.

With the way the practices and the qualifying went, the Fords look very good. In fact, the Chevys AND the Fords looked to have good speed in qualifying. I do find it interesting that two Stewart/Haas racing teams sit on the front row and one of them is, Kevin Harvick, the pole winner. The next three positions are also Stewart/Haas Fords comprised of Aric Almirola, outside pole with Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez taking the third and fourth starting positions.

In a quick look back, I have to admit, last weekend’s race at the Monster Mile was different and it definitely didn’t go as I expected it would. It was actually a pretty good race and the speeds were extremely fast, especially in the turns. It seems some drivers liked it and others didn’t and some even expressed their dissatisfaction with the package NASCAR had them run.

What I find interesting is how several drivers complained about the latest package NASCAR required them to run at Dover and I know you’ve already heard what Kyle Bush AND Kevin Harvick had to say about NASCAR and the package this last week. What I find even more interesting is that the ones complaining so much, (actually, I call it whining), are drivers that have been dominate in the past and can’t seem to find their way to the front lately. I guess they think the package is to blame for their lack of performance. Frankly, I just don’t see it that way.

What I see is drivers not being able to pass like they think they should. At times, it seems they think that everyone should just move out of their way so they can go by. Unfortunately, those they are trying to pass are using the very same tactics they would use to keep those other drivers behind them. When the shoe is on the other foot, it appears they just don’t think it is fair, or that the package is keeping them from passing or from taking the win or whatever else they want to blame on the package rather than their ability to find a way to make it work.

The two most well-known to register complaints were Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick and is it just me or, did Kyle Bush show us another time he wasn’t happy. Could it be that he wasn’t happy because he could only manage a tenth-place finish? Funny that his teammate, Martin Truex Jr. won the race at Dover coming from the rear while Kyle could only manage a tenth-place finish. Same make, same car, same team just different drivers.

From my view, I honestly think the only time we ever do see Kyle happy is when he wins. All other times he does his usual “whining” about the track, the tires or the package and wears a frown for hours, and sometimes days, until he finally shows up and has a chance for contending for the win. If he has another bad day, his attitude is the same almost every time.

Well, I don’t apologize for that little rant, but it is time to move on to my view of what it will be like at Kansas Speedway under the lights. After all, the answer to the question I started off with won’t be answered until the green flag drops. That’s when the… well… you know what it is that stops when the green flag drops…

Judging from the qualifying and just the general consensus after qualifying by the SHR teams, this may just be another “Saturday Night under the lights” at Kansas Speedway. One big difference could be that the Chevys actually make a good showing against the Fords and Toyotas, perhaps even coming away with a win and wouldn’t that be something different than recent times at the one and a half mile tracks. But wait! Didn’t Chase Elliott win at this track the last time the MENCS teams visited last fall???

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 11, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

MENCS And The Monster Mile At Dover from a NASCAR Fan’s View

There’s a reason why they call it “The Monster Mile.” It’s because it really is a monster of a challenge and a monster to face for 400 miles and, for the MENCS teams, it will be even more of a “Monster” than it has been. This weekend at Dover is a totally different experience for the drivers and teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

This is the first time the MENCS teams have taken to the Monster Mile with this particular package. There is more downforce and more speed (on an already high-speed track, I might add) and it will be a different experience for all. There has never been any time when The Monster wasn’t a challenge but this time, the first time competing with this package on this track, it will definitely be a challenge and a learning experience. Add to the new package a different tire brought in by Goodyear and you have all of the elements for a dramatic race, UNTIL, they adapt to all of the nuances of this new package.

There is one statement we all hear about the NASCAR Cup drivers and it’s often repeated and has been with regularity this weekend. That statement says that these are the best racecar drivers in the world. From this fan’s view, it looks like they get another chance to prove that statement true again this weekend.

Now, I am not trying to add any negative input into the statement because I do think they will once again prove it to be true. I have noticed while observing the statements and observations of the drivers that there is a bit of concern and hesitancy in how they think the race on Sunday afternoon will go. Not getting to practice in the scheduled early morning practice on Saturday because of pretty dense fog may or may not have a large impact on them but I expect they will adapt anyway. It is just less time for them to know how their cars will react when running in groups of other cars and how the tires will wear and affect their ability to compete. Add the fact that rain is presently very likely for Sunday, this fan can’t help but wonder if we will even see them race on Sunday.

It was good to see NASCAR decide to go back to single car qualifying and, I have to admit, what I saw this weekend looks good to me, at least so far. As I have admitted many times before, I have been around stock car racing since I was very young and, whether it was at the dirt tracks in Southern Illinois or the asphalt tracks in Florida, qualifying was always pretty much the same. It was one car and one driver at a time against the track and the conditions for that moment in time. There weren’t any second chances. The time you got was the time you were stuck with for that qualifying session. I don’t see any reason why it can’t be the same on a continuing basis for the MENCS teams

It seemed the racing was still good and, no matter where the better cars qualified, they did everything they could to work their way to the front. Sometimes they didn’t qualify well and other times the rules for the night might be to reverse the lineup just to make it interesting for the fans. It didn’t matter, at least from this long-time fan’s view, the racing was always exciting and filled with emotion and drama. Sometimes the favorite would win and sometimes the favorite underdog would. It didn’t matter and I’m kinda glad NASCAR decided to make it simple and to the point again.

Just a quick mention about last weekend at Talladega. Since I am a diehard Chevy fan, it was great to finally see a Chevy end up in Victory Lane. It has been a long, hard struggle for them and congrats to Chase Elliott for the race he drove and the way the Chevy teams pretty much followed their plan and strategy for the Super Speedway in Alabama. Last weekend’s race at Talladega was, in this fan’s opinion, one of the best races of the 2019 season and not just because Chase Elliott won it in a Chevy. That was good too, but the racing was even better than I had hoped. I really kind of expected to see them run a bunch of laps in single file and sort of make their play or moves very near the end of the stages. I was pleasantly surprised to see double file, close racing for almost all of the laps of the race.

There are two things I just have to mention. You remember I started off this with the statement that there is a reason why they call this the Monster Mile. First, this is a one mile oval with lots of banking and, with the added downforce of this package, high speeds. That could mean there might be some unexpected happenings as the race progresses. Things like broken parts and tire failures and any number of problems, whether on the track or in the pits. Second, along with all of the possible unknowns as we enter into race day for the Gander RV 400, we can only hope it doesn’t rain and that the race goes on without a hitch weather-wise.

There have been a lot of statements about which of the drivers might win and, of course, many have brought up the names of Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. I’m not willing to pick one of them directly but I will say I would not be disappointed with any of those three winning.

Now, considering how the Chevys have performed so far this weekend I have to ask this question: Could it be that the size of the rear spoiler and the added downforce have been what the Camaros have needed all along? Well… I guess we’ll see as the season progresses…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 4, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

No Restrictor Plates At Talladega? from a NASCAR Fan’s View

I know you’ve already heard it a thousand times this week. There will be no restrictor plates at Talladega for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this weekend. It’s another week of rule changes for the Cup teams and it should make for a very interesting race on Sunday afternoon. (Of course, it could mean another weekend of not-so-great racing as well.)

Alright, I admit it. This has been a season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series where the racing just hasn’t been all that great. (Well, at least that’s this fan’s opinion.) There isn’t anything wrong with change and there have been a lot of them this season but, from this fan’s view, the 2019 season has been a little lackluster for much of the time. (Once again, I stress that this is this fan’s view and you may or may not agree with it.) Sure, the last couple of races at the short tracks before taking a week off were better but, in my opinion, the season as a whole so far just hasn’t been all that exciting. I point to everything from the way qualifying has gone to even the stages being somewhat uneventful. It just seems that something’s missing. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but compared to last season, there just doesn’t seem to be the same intensity in the stages or in the racing overall.

Take, for example, the qualifying sessions. Until they shortened the amount of time to get on the track and acquire a qualifying time, nothing was happening for most of the first two rounds until the last few minutes. Don’t you agree there’s nothing more exciting than watching the cars all sitting and waiting on pit road waiting until they have to take a lap? Yeah, that’s what I thought…

So… why might this weekend’s race at Talladega be different? What is it about this race that could be so different from previous races at the Super Speedway in Alabama? What else is going on other than they have removed the restrictor plates? (At least they still had no restrictor plates at the time of this writing.)

This will be the first time restrictor plates haven’t been used in over thirty years. They have made some other rule changes to the cars dealing with drag and horse power but the biggest news is the lack of restrictor plates. This will be old news to the avid NASCAR fan but they have a nine inch spoiler on the rear deck, an additional extension below the bumper along with a couple of other items and all of this was to control the speed so they wouldn’t need the restrictor plates.

So far though, the speeds have been over 202 mph when in the draft. That is approaching a speed that NASCAR doesn’t want to have them run at for safety reasons. It is true, when running by themselves, the speeds are much reduced but, when they get together in a pack, drafting speeds are higher than many expected they would be. The closing rates are much higher also and there are still questions about stability when running in the draft

I don’t remember a time, at least in recent Talladega history, that there has been such obvious concern for how the cars are going to drive and what it’s going to be like for the long haul during the 500 miles. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying the drivers are fearful of the cars or the possibilities. I’m just bringing up my thoughts on how they have been talking of how they think the racing will be on Sunday afternoon. They are very uncertain and really and honestly don’t know what to expect. It is going to be a new and different Talladega experience for them. Well… at least for a while, until they adapt to the conditions created by the rule changes.

I hate to bring it up again but, as a Chevy fan, I’m just not sure the Chevys are ready to run up front yet. During the first practice session they looked like they just might be very competitive. After a couple of tweaks to the rules by NASCAR entering into the second practice, they moved right back down the speed chart to none being in the top ten. That may not bode well for them on Sunday in the Geico 500 but, I guess we’ll just have to wait and seen on that one.

When it comes to races on the Super Speedways, I have to admit I am still a big fan. That being said, there are a couple of things I hope we don’t see on Sunday afternoon. I really hope they don’t pick up tandem racing again. A lot of people liked the “two-car draft” racing but I wasn’t a fan. I guess I’m one that likes the door handle to door handle, bumper to bumper stuff. I like it best when they’re in big packs, slicing and dicing in and out of the lanes they’re in to make a run on those in front of them. Sometimes they advance and sometimes they fall back a bunch of spots and have to try it all over again. The other thing I hope we don’t have to endure for any extended number of laps is everyone falling into single file and just counting down the laps until a stage is nearing its end. I know there will be a certain amount of that but, I do hope the racing is better than that.

When all is said and done, there is a definite possibility that there could be at least one big one and possibly more over the 500 miles of the Geico 500 at Talladega. I just hope there are some cars left running at the end and that one of the drivers contending for the win on the final lap is driving a Chevy…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 27, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Saturday Night Short Tracking At Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

You hear it all the time if you follow NASCAR or just follow stock car racing in general. “Ahhhh, there’s just nothing like Saturday night racing at a short track.” Well, it’s true. there really is nothing like stock car racing under the lights on a Saturday night. Whether you’re a fan, a driver, an owner or just plain like stock car racing, you probably grew up going to the races at your local track on a Saturday night.

I know I did. From a very early age my parents took my sister and me to the races almost every weekend. We were fortunate. Our town had two tracks, both dirt, and whether it was on a Friday night, Saturday night or a Sunday afternoon, we were often there. Now, it is true, as a family, we couldn’t afford to take all of them in, but we did make it to one of them almost every weekend and usually, Saturday night was the night.

Of course, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is different than those local short tracks when it takes place on a Saturday night, under the lights, but the feel is the same. For some reason, the cars look better and the racing is generally better and much more intense. Emotions always seem to play an important part and tempers often surface whether in the cars, the pits or even the stands. It will be the same at Richmond tonight. (Well, that is IF it doesn’t rain…)

Before I spend more time reminiscing about Saturday nights and my thoughts on Richmond, I do need to say a few words about Bristol. It was nice to finally see some good racing for much of the race at Bristol. Maybe it was because it was typical short track racing or maybe it was because the shorter tracks just fit the new rules better. Whatever the case and from this fan’s view, it was nice to watch considering how the season has gone so far.

If you remember, last week I mentioned my thoughts for making qualifying better. It seems NASCAR must have heard me because this week they changed the qualifying procedure at Richmond. Three, five minute, sessions to qualify in whatever order they end up in. I don’t know about you but, this fan thought this weekend’s qualifying was much more interesting and, even though there were tons of complaints from drivers, crew chiefs and others, it wasn’t a long drawn out waiting period so they could all go out in the last three minutes.

Well, in all honesty, I seriously doubt they read or listened to my blogcast, but they did institute pretty much what I mentioned in last week’s article. I don’t know what you think about this week’s qualifying, but I thought it was much better and perhaps they should think about doing it the same way at larger venues, too. I think it simplifies the process and still accomplishes the task. (You know, that old, “The end justifies the means” thing.)

Whatever the case, I hope they at least consider this week’s process for qualifying as a regular format over the next several races. It is much more dramatic and exciting, especially from a fan’s view. Oh well…
I know I keep harping on some of the same things, week in and week out but, I can’t help but wonder if the Chevys are ever going to win a race this season. Considering how they dominated at one time, it has to be frustrating for them to have fast race cars but not be able to seal the deal at the final checkered flag. I still think it has to do with the Camaro body style but I’m not an engineer and I don’t know what they saw in it as promising over any other choices they could have made. I realize all three makes look pretty much the same, but something is different about the Camaros compared to the Toyotas and Fords. Is it underneath the bodies that the Chevys don’t measure up or are they just that much further behind the other teams in making everything work?

Lately, it does seem the Chevys are making headway but every week the results are the same. It has to be frustrating for the drivers and teams to continually talk about the improvements they’re making but never see better results. Well, at least not so far.

All I can say about tonight’s race at Richmond is that I hope it doesn’t rain it out or shorten it in any way. A shortened race just isn’t what I want to watch even though I know things do happen that way. If they have to move it to Sunday, well… let’s just say it loses that “Saturday night under the lights” appeal. Sure, it will still be a short track race and have much of the same drama and emotional racing but, it just won’t be the same in daylight as when they go “under lights” at Richmond. This fan is hoping it goes the distance and it does it “under the lights on a Saturday night…”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 13, 2019 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

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