The Next Next Gen Challenge Was Phoenix

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

I thought I’d try something a little different for the last race of the West Coast swing. I thought I’d talk about it after the race had been run and I’m glad I made that decision. There isn’t really a lot of difference between talking about it before or after other than there are some more obvious things to mention, at least from my view. Having said that, there are several things that seem pretty obvious to this fan and one of them I think I have mentioned before. That would be that, in several ways, the Next Gen car favors the younger drivers. No, I’m not saying the veterans just don’t have what it takes to go fast in this car. What I’m saying – and have said – it is my opinion they have more to unlearn to make the switch to this Next Gen car.

It’s really no secret. Ask any of the drivers in the Cup series. The Next Gen car is a bear to drive and they are all trying to learn about it as fast as they can. They also say they are pressing the envelope to see just how far they can push it. They have a lot to learn and it does appear they are making headway, but it also obvious it is somewhat of a careful and slow process and they sometime push it too far and pay a price. Sometimes that price is heavy and sometimes, well, let’s just say the price and the damage may be light but hopefully they learned something in the process.

From my view, the hardest part is they don’t have a lot of time in the car at all and they definitely have to experiment and press the envelope at each of the tracks they visit. They just don’t have information in their notebooks for the tracks they face for the first time with the new Next Gen car. Although, looking at the results from this last weekend, having a previous practice session at this track before this last weekend’s race did seem to help some of the teams’ performance.

It does appear, at least for the present, the Hendrick cars are just slightly ahead of the rest and they have dominated – at least in the win column – the tracks in the West Coast Swing. All of that changed at Phoenix and the Fords – well at least some of them showed there was still hope for them as the weeks progress.

Why do I say that? Well… That’s a good question and I’m glad you asked.

With the way things started out this last weekend, it was another one of those times it looked like any of the manufacturers could win and the Fords and Toyotas both looked pretty strong. Ryan Blaney took the pole and Denny Hamlin sat beside him on the front row. Of course, then the race started and the Chevys once again moved to the front. At times all four of the Hendrick teams were in the top ten and the Chevy teams, overall, looked to be ready to potentially win and finish high in the running order.

Of course, you know what happened at the end of the race; Chase Briscoe in a Ford won the race and there were five Fords, two Chevys and two Toyotas in the top ten. Surprisingly to me, the Hendrick Chevys weren’t in the top ten even though all four of them had looked to be able to take the win earlier in the race. I do wonder what might have happened had Kyle Larson not had an engine problem.

So… Chase Briscoe won his first race in his cup series career and congrats to him and SHR. It wasn’t just given to him, he had to drive for it. Once again, Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick showed they are both on the road to possibly winning in the Cup series as they finished second and third. Even the older veterans Kurt Bush, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Bush showed up in the top ten at the end. Can’t help but wonder how their winless streaks might be affected in the near future.

I could probably go on and on talking of all the little things that stood out to me at Phoenix but I don’t want to drag this out any further. After all, the race is over, someone driving something other than a Hendrick car won a race and the stage is set for all to move on to Atlanta. What happens there is as yet unknown but we all know it will be another new track for the Next Gen car and the learning curve will continue for all the Cup teams. Whether or not the Hendrick teams will still lead the way or one of the other teams will begin to show the way remains to be seen. I’m betting Atlanta will show more of the same we’ve seen so far. The Next Gen car will still be a beast to drive and someone is going to win. I’m just not sure which of them is going to step up to the plate…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view…See ya next time.
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 14, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Cup Teams Take On Vegas With The Next Gen

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Cup teams take it to Vegas on Sunday afternoon and it will be another “first time” visit to a track for the Next Gen Car. Even though it does seem they are all beginning to adapt to the new car, there are still some unanswered questions and unknowns. I still haven’t made up my mind about the new car yet but, I will admit it is beginning to look better as the teams adapt to it and the season progresses.

One thing I’ve noticed right at first here is that the younger drivers seem to be adapting to the car somewhat faster than those that have been around the sport for a while. In fact, if you listen to the interviews from some of them, they never fail to mention how much fun they’re having. To me it seems they almost think it’s funny. Maybe that’s because they haven’t had to “unlearn” so much as those that spent so much time in the old cars.  I’m  not sure if some of the veterans feel the same way but, it does seem as though they have all accepted the challenge and deal with the new car because they really don’t have any other options. Still, from my view, it does seem the younger drivers are smiling more than the others.

I will admit, with all the changes made this year with the car and other things, I do like the way they’ve decided to have practice and qualifying. I think it makes it much more interesting and, once again offering my opinion, it somehow makes the whole weekend more interesting. There is no substitute for track time but I have no problem at all for making it a little bit more challenging for the entire field. As I mentioned, when they had no practice and no qualifying, it is pretty obvious, at least to this fan, which of them depended on the extended practice times to get their cars right.

Looking back at the race last weekend, I was surprised by several things. First, and I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see Kyle Larson win. I just wasn’t so sure the Chevys had the right stuff at first and then it seemed they came to life. Even though Kyle and Chase had their run-in, they were running up front and Chase was up there even after being laps down. Eric Jones was another one and it was good to see him running competitively and with a chance to win. Daniel Suarez was also in a Chevy and almost won but was outmaneuvered by Larson at the very end. So, to say I was surprised at the performance of the Chevys would kind of be an understatement.

This weekend’s race at Vegas could prove to be one of the more interesting races so far this season. I know we’re only at week three and there’s one more to go on the West Coast swing but it is possible that things could pick up as the teams get better and better at figuring out how to make this Next Gen car handle better and go faster. I’ve often heard people talk about how the West Coast swing shows more about the cars and which teams have the best grip on it.

So far, it looks pretty even for all of the teams and it does seem many of the drivers are struggling with the same things about the car. No doubt you’ve heard many of the drivers complain of how hard they are to drive and how hard it is to adjust to some of the new features of it. Not one of them has actually said they have it figured out and not one has said they want to give up on it. In fact, it is my opinion they secretly like the challenge it is offering them week in and week out. I’m not saying they are happy with their results so far but I am saying they like the challenge and look forward to race weekends at the different tracks with this new and different car.

I know you’ve heard all the talk of how Kyle Larson is the favorite to take the win this weekend and his team has given him a fast car from the looks of it. It may not mean a thing he is sitting on the front row this weekend and he may have his work cut out for him to take a second straight victory, but it could be he is on his way to another double figure season of wins. He does do well at all three of these tracks but I’m not so sure he will win at Vegas.

It looks like some of the other teams have shown up with some speed, too. Just look at which of them is sitting on the pole. Joe Gibbs driver, Christopher Bell didn’t beat Larson by much for the pole but he did beat him. Even the Fords showed some pretty good speed and we all know how badly Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick want to take a win. Don’t rule out those other Ford Teams either. There just isn’t that much of a speed difference between the Chevys, Fords or the Toyotas and, given this track is a favorite of many, anything could happen.

Since there is a lot of pressure on the drivers as they try to work through the problems and the difficulties of this new car, it does seem to this fan tempers are shorter and emotions are running pretty high. I don’t think it will take much to set one or two of them off and retaliation become the word for the day. I know it happened in the Xfinity series and even if NASCAR warns them to stay calm, I’m not so sure they will be all that willing to listen. I could be wrong, but…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view. See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 6, 2022 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Fontana Is The Next Stop For The Next Gen

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

For the first time in two years, NASCAR Cup Series takes on the old Auto Club Speedway in California. Even though the track is old and a track the drivers like to race on, it has its own set of problems; problems they’ve tried to fix – or at least make better – but they haven’t quite gotten there yet. This first trip back in a while with the Next Gen car hasn’t made things any easier.

First, NASCAR only gave the Cup Teams a fifteen-minute practice time and then there was qualifying on the same day. Judging from what I’ve seen from that fiasco, it looks to me as though the teams are going to struggle a bit, at least when they put all of the cars on the track at the same time.

You might be wondering why I titled this the way I did. To tell the truth – and I think it’s been pretty obvious – I just haven’t been too impressed with the Next Gen car whether at L.A. or Daytona and now, Auto Club Speedway at Fontana. One thing that amazes this fan is how many problems they’re having – or maybe I should say, finding – with a car they’ve been working on for over two years. Is there anything wrong with introducing a completely new car into the competition? No, of course not. Is there anything wrong with giving the drivers a challenge they haven’t experienced ever? Again, no, of course not.

Taking a quick look back at the race last weekend at Daytona, it just wasn’t as good as this fan thought it should or could be. In fact, I thought – and still do think – they have basically managed to kill Super Speedway racing. (I’m sure that will gain some disagreement from all corners and everyone has a right to their own opinion.) For one thing, at least from my view, the only thing basically the same with Superspeedway racing and the Next Gen car is the remaining existence of the “The Big One.”

I know it sounds like I’m complaining but I’m really not. I prefer to call it whining. After coming off a year like 2021 and the type of racing at all the tracks they visited, I’m just completely underwhelmed. This has nothing to do with Ford, Chevy or Toyota. This has everything to do with the introduction of the Next Gen car and my opinion of it. I still believe what I mentioned before. I believe NASCAR has managed to attain the parity they always intended and they’ve done it with this new car and in the process killed the competitive racing they had with the old car. Even the drivers aren’t all that happy with it and, in my opinion, they do their best to not complain too much and tick off NASCAR.

Yeah, I know I’m treading in dangerous territory and there will be many that disagree with my assessment of the Next Gen car. I also know it may not be considered as appropriate or completely true but, it is the way I see it and I’m not really willing to give up that view point at the present time. I’m sure some will say that I just don’t like change and there is nothing further from the truth. What I like is change for the better and with the Next Gen car, that remains to be seen and maybe… just maybe… it will happen in the not-too-distant future. I guess we’ll see about that and we’ll see if and how NASCAR may re-evaluate this new car.

Now, getting back to Fontana and the Auto Club Speedway…

Judging only from what I observed in the practices and qualifying, this could be another race with carnage like we usually only see at the Super Speedways. turns three and four seem to be the place many had difficulties in. So many had problems in those corners running as single cars, I can’t help but wonder what it will be like when they go into those turns two or three wide. I think this will be the place where the worst could happen and, since this is the entry to the front straight and the finish line, it could be where the race is won or lost and not because of driver error.

If you listen closely to the drivers and crew chiefs, you’ll find they admit this car is a real challenge and difficult to drive. You will also hear them say these are the cards they’ve been dealt and they will deal with it as they always do. So far, they’re dealing with it but I’m not so sure they’re happy about the progress so far.

From this fan’s view, I know there are many things about the Next Gen car that are good. I also know it is a major transition in technology and engineering for NASCAR. I’m willing to be patient and take a wait and see attitude over the next several races. My biggest question for any and all with an opinion is this; Is the Next Gen car the best car for NASCAR Stock Car Racing and its future or is there something more conducive to the type racing Stock Car racing is all about. I don’t know about you but, I am anxious to find out…

Hey, This is Russ and that’s my view – See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© February 26, 2022 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com

All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Season Begins With The Big One At Daytona

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

As they’ve been doing for a long time, NASCAR starts off their season with the biggest and most prestigious race of the year, the Daytona 500. As we enter the 2022 NASCAR Cup season it’s no different than it has been for long, long time BUT, there ARE a LOT of things different this year.

The Clash was in a totally different venue – The Coliseum in LA – and they built a track for that where there wasn’t one before AND that track was a quarter-mile, something the Cup cars hadn’t visited for 50 years or so. The car is new – the Next Gen or Gen Seven car – and has been totally re-designed (except maybe for the power under the hood.) Some of the drivers are new to the Cup series and there are new teams, team names and owners joining with NASCAR as all of this comes together in this new year.

So, let’s talk about some of what has already transpired.

Hey, I admit I’ve been a NASCAR fan for longer than many of the fan’s these days have been alive. I have seen a lot of changes over the years and some I have liked and some had to grow on me but, I’m still a fan after all this time. As we enter the 2022 season, I have to say right up front, some of the things I’ve seen so far this year will also have to grow on me.

We all endured the hype leading up to the Clash at the Coliseum and there certainly was lot of it. Some were disappointed with it but many weren’t. Looking at it from a local stock car driver/owner, not in NASCAR point of view, I’m sure the drivers enjoyed it more than anybody and as it turned out, it was just like a normal Saturday night short track race. Frankly, if it weren’t for the usual short track pushing and shoving, beating and banging, I found it to be a bit boring. In typical short track fashion, it was pretty much follow-the-leader and the way to pass was to move the guy in front of you out of the way.

Admittedly, the Clash has always been more of an entertainment type of race from my view with no points on the line but definitely a trophy and bragging rights. Since it was the first race on the previously unknown track and venue, Joey Logano walked with both of those. Looking at it as a fan, it was okay and I’m glad many got a chance to see a NASCAR Cup race, possibly for the first time even though not a typical track. Honestly though, I really couldn’t tell if the fans in the seats were there more for the race or Pit Bull and Ice Cube.

This week we saw, practice, qualifying and The Duels and it was the first time we all got to see the Next Gen car with more cars running on the track at the same time. From this fan’s view, it was a little disappointing to see how much of a follow-the-leader type of race the duels were. Yeah, I know the teams were feeling out their cars and determining what they needed to do to make them faster and more manageable in groups but, once again the Fords mostly ran together, the Toyotas and the Chevys the same.

Now, I understand the manufacturer thing and even the team thing but, I have to admit, at least from my view, I was disappointed in how hard it was to make up the difference between a two tire stop and a four. I was even a little surprised at how easy it was for a car to lose the draft and how hard it was for those that did to catch back up. Usually, they didn’t. From my view, it looked like the magic number of cars to either catch up or break away was at least four. Whether or not it had anything to do with the manufacturer or just at least four cars hooking up, I couldn’t tell.

Now, I’m not saying these aren’t things they won’t find answers to even as early as the start of the race, but it does make me question, at least a little bit, just how the 500 may go on Sunday afternoon. Could it be that NASCAR in desiring to attain parity as they wanted, has done too good a job? I say it is possible but not too likely. All of these guys are racers and I am sure they will figure it out even though it may not be for Sunday’s race.

From this fan’s view and trying to be as positive and fair about all of what is going on in NASCAR in this new season, I wonder what the Daytona 500 will be like this weekend. Judging from the end of Duel 2, I see it is still highly possible for drivers to make mistakes. That being the case, that means there is still the likelihood of having at least one “Big One” and possibly more than one.

Another thing I wonder about is which of the teams and or manufacturers might show an advantage over the others. Were the Chevys only fast as single cars or were they sandbagging? Looking at the performance of the Fords in the last practices, I just wonder if they are that far ahead of the others or if they just work good together? And the Toyotas… well… hard to tell at this point.

From this fan’s view, I think this is going to be a race with a lot of follow-the-leader laps with a lot of side-by-side and single file racing. I don’t think anyone will be anxious to jump out of line and quickly fade to the back or lose the draft altogether. Unless I miss my guess, I expect there will be a lot of two tire stops unless the stops are under caution. This just makes sense to me since there is about a four second difference between a two tire and a four-tire stop. Without a doubt in my view, fueling will take the longest amount of time on a stop and that will be the demise of some and the advancement in the field for others.

Understanding there are a lot of things new and different going into the Daytona 500, I’m willing to take it all in and see how things pan out. After all, there’s a lot of racing ahead in 2022…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view. See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 19, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

New Era Begins At The Bush Light Clash In LA

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

This weekend will mark the beginning of a new era for the NASCAR Cup series just like the end of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Season marked the end of an era in the Series. As I think back over the last year, there are a lot of things that have sparked a lot of memories in what I consider to be one of the most remarkable and best NASCAR seasons ever.

I’m sure there are many in agreement with me and just as many that might disagree. That’s okay and I am fine with all of that but, the 2021 Cup season was definitely a season that will be remembered for a long time and I truly believe people on both sides of the discussion will remember the year because it was simply a great year in NASCAR with some of the best racing ever.

Now, just as sure as I am that NASCAR fans across the country will agree, although for differing reasons, I know many were disappointed that their driver didn’t perform as well as expected and many of those didn’t like the way the year ended. I, however, was not one of those. Kyle Larson drove to the 2021 Cup Championship and did so humbly and with his talent. Will he repeat last year’s accomplishments?

That is one of the biggest question marks as the NASCAR Cup series enters this new season of 2022. In fact, there are a lot of questions on everyone’s minds and most won’t be answered until they actually hit the tracks over the coming months.

Now, the Next Gen cars are in every shop and it remains to be seen how they will affect the outcome of this season. Though all the teams have been working on the new car for a couple of years or so, no one really knows what the racing will be like because they haven’t been on the track in an actual multi-car racing format. Will it equalize the field or will some come out of the box with an advantage over the rest? Will it benefit the younger drivers or the veterans? From this fan’s view, I reckon, time will tell.

I don’t know about you but, I will be glad when the teams take to the track on Sunday and we can get The Busch Light Clash out of the way and into the books. I think I’ve heard enough hype about LA, the Coliseum and all they went through to make the football field a quarter mile racetrack. We’ve all been inundated to the point of saturation with every little detail about this track, the Next Gen car and everything in between. Sure, I know there are a lot of questions. I know there are a lot of unknowns and I know that no one actually has any idea of how this race weekend is going to turn out and which driver will come away from the Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum as the winner.

From listening to the drivers talk about this track, it sounds as if they’re going to treat it like a Saturday night short track with beating, banging and moving people out of the way. Some call that racing. I’m not so sure I do but I do understand the mentality. It reminds me of something I used to hear drivers say when I was short-track racing. “Look man, I tried you high and I tried you low then it was time for you to go.”

Look, I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud and I’m not putting down what they have accomplished at the Coliseum in a very short period of time. I’m just weary of hearing the same stories over and over again and most all of it is speculation. Fortunately – and thankfully I might add – today is the day they hit the track and some of the questions will be answered. Which brings to mind something that hasn’t happened much in the last two years and is supposed to be happening every weekend this season – practice and qualifying sessions are returning to the Cup series.

I don’t know exactly how I feel about that. I did kind of enjoy seeing how some of the veteran drivers and crew chiefs struggled with not getting their practice time in. Some adapted very well to that situation and others… well… let’s just say it did show there were some weaknesses throughout some of the teams last season. I guess it really was harder on the rookies coming into the Cup cars from the other series. At least that’s what many have said and I do understand that. Perhaps this year will be the year they can catch up since everyone is experiencing this new car for the first time. That’s another one of those things I say, “I guess time will tell.”

This is just a questioning observation on my part but, is adding practice sessions and qualifying back to the race weekend something that will actually help or is it possible more should be doing what Kyle Larson has been doing? He races all the time in all kinds of cars at all kinds of tracks and wins a lot wherever he goes and in everything he drives.

So, I ask you; is it because he is just overly talented as a driver or is it because he drives so many different types of cars on a bunch of different tracks as often as he can and that’s what helps him adapt and drive the Cup cars the way he does with such success? Hey, I know he is very talented and has been around the Cup series for a while now. I also know he isn’t the only very talented driver out there. I’m just amazed at the schedule he keeps and how much success he has on a regular basis wherever he goes. This weekend won’t give us much of an idea of how the rest of the season will go for any of the teams or drivers because there isn’t another track like this one in the series. Like they say… The real racing starts at the Daytona 500…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view.
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 5, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Martinsville And Making The 2021 Championship Four

There are a lot of things that have been said about the Martinsville Speedway and everyone has just about worn out the phrases over the past week. In fact, there are a lot of things that are said about Martinsville every time the teams in all three NASCAR series visit the place. We all already know it is what most consider a short track and it is a challenging flat track with tight racing and very little room for passing. I guess I can’t overlook that many consider it as a place for “payback” no matter how long ago there might have been an on-track incident or a continuing long-running memory incident of someone feeling as though they were wronged by another driver someplace along the way.

That’s just the usual talk of a racetrack with so much history of all kinds when it comes to short tracks, well known for the intensity and emotion that surfaces at them. That’s probably why so many love short tracks. It’s the fan’s type of race. Emotions always seem to run high along with rivalries and fans hate to see their favorites run over or wrecked and love it when their driver does take an opportunity to give a little (or a lot of) payback.

You know what I mean, don’t you? Chase somebody down or wait for them and the opportunity to give that someone a shove out of the way or into the wall. There is little likelihood someone will get physically hurt but, there is the likelihood they might have their race or season ruined, at least for that moment in time and, come away a little angry and carry that anger or grudge to the next short track. When it comes to NASCAR, that incident might live on in video for a very long time and be used as an example of just how emotional and intense stock car racing can be.

This weekend at Martinsville will probably be a little more intense and emotional than usual since this is an elimination race and there are seven drivers not qualified to move on to the Cup Championship race at Phoenix next weekend. Some of the seven are in a must-win situation. If things go as they have recently, all of the seven might be in a must-win situation and you can bet that will make for some very dramatic and intense racing, along with a lot of pushing and shoving and moving people out of the way.

Some say the possibilities are very high, Kyle Larson, could finish out the season with five straight wins and walk away with the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship and trophy. Even though he admits he struggles at Martinsville and doesn’t always run well there, I think that is a good possibility also. After all he already has three in a row, twice this season and has won ten Cup races, counting the All-Star race. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him walk away with 12 wins on the season and the 2021 Cup Championship to boot. He’s having a very special year and anything is still possible.

On the other hand, there are still those seven other drivers that want to be a part of the Championship four and they will probably be willing to do just about anything at the Martinsville Speedway to take the win. Martinsville is just that kind of place. It doesn’t seem to matter what the consequences might be, or what driver they make mad along the way. It’s all about winning this weekend and more than just the seven still in the playoffs want to take that clock home for taking the win. (Do the names Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick come to mind?)

I know you’ve heard just about every possibility of what might or will happen in this race. For the last two weeks, we have been inundated with the names of Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin have been offered as the most likely to succeed this weekend at Martinsville. Even though we all know statistics say something about performance, past and present, this fan thinks this is going to be as unpredictable as any we’ve seen. There are just too many possibilities that aren’t explained by the stats. there are just too many that want to win this one and might be willing to do just about anything to do so. Where does that leave the likes of Brad K, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Bush. All of them have a chance to win but, will they?

Even though Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin look to have a good points cushion, there is no guarantee for them to make it to the Championship four. All it takes is for some bad decisions and/or a little bad racing luck to change their whole situation. Of course, everyone on the track will be at the mercy of others’ possible mistakes or fits of anger and retaliation.

In this fan’s opinion and at the time of this writing, no one is guaranteed to move on in the Cup series except Kyle Larson. The rest of them will be fighting it out to the very end and I expect the intensity and emotions to be running very high…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 30, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Pressure Is On At Kansas

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Seven of the eight drivers trying to make it to the final four are feeling the pressure to come away from the Kansas Speedway with a lot of points or a win. That other guy… uh, what’s his name again… oh yeah, Kyle Larson, well, he’s not pressured but he wants another win and the rest of them are probably going to have to deal with him being there contending for the win along with them.

Some of the seven not yet in the final four are under more pressure than a couple of the others. Except for Kyle Larson, the points battle for the rest is very tight. The only one with a not-so-comfortable points lead of those seven is Ryan Blaney. He is seventeen points above the cutline and rated second to Larson in the points standings.

From this fan’s view, I don’t think anyone can believe the Gibbs teams will show up and run at Kansas as they did at Texas. Texas was not a good track at all for them although, Kyle Bush did manage to finish in a place where he is eight points above the cutline. Even though he did win the first stage, I’m still not convinced he is going to make it to the final four in Phoenix. This is another one of those times I’m not making a positive statement as to whether he will or won’t; I’m just saying I’m not so sure he will make the cut. There are many that say you can never count him out but, I am one that says you can. Remember, I’m not saying he won’t make it, I’m just saying he might not make it either on points or by winning over the next two races.

Martin Truex Jr. really cannot afford to have another bad race. He is twenty-two points below the cutline and that almost puts him in a must win situation. I haven’t been paying that close of attention to his plight over the last several races but it does appear he is struggling for consistency. I know he is capable of winning at either of these next two tracks so I’m not counting him out just yet. His fate lay in the hands of him and his crew chief and a lot of things will have to go right for him to move on from where he is to the final four. Impossible is not really a word we should apply to his circumstances but, he does have a long way to go.

From this fan’s view, Joey Logano is probably one of the least likely to advance to the final four. His blown engine last weekend did not help him at all and put him at the bottom of the list. Like most other fans, I believe he is in a must win situation either here at Kansas or, if he fails here, a win at Martinsville becomes a necessity. Being forty-three points below the cutline is might tough to make up unless everyone has really bad days or he takes that win he needs to jump the cutline. Still, he runs well at both tracks so, he could pull it off. If he does, in my opinion it could shift the momentum to him at least somewhat for that final race at Phoenix.

Brad Keselowski has his work cut out for himself if he wants to be a contender for the 2021 Championship. He is fifteen points below the cutline and has seemed to find his way near the front recently but, I’m just not so sure he will be able to move on from here. This season is his last chance to get another Championship while driving for Roger Penske but, from this fan’s view, he really needs to win one race over the next two races. We all know he is capable but the question is, will he? I’m just not so sure it will happen for him. From my view, it’s just been that kind of year for him.

Chase Elliott is just below the cutline just eight points behind Kyle Bush. We all know he is under the gun to have a good points day and possibly take the win. Of the seven drivers not yet in or completely out of moving on, Chase is the one that probably wants this race as badly as anyone. I really don’t think he wants to go to Martinsville having to win but, he has done it before. Last year’s Cup Champion is in a good spot to move on but a lot of things have to go his way. Even though he is still in it, he has struggled in several ways over the last several races and he cannot afford to have a bad day at Kansas.

Let’s face it. Kansas is a challenging racetrack. They can run high and they can run low including all the way down to the apron. They can also run three wide if they want. Not everyone will want to but it can be done. The pressure to run up front or win is extreme for the seven not yet locked into moving on to the final four. From this fan’s view, this is going to be one of the most aggressive, emotional and intense races of the Round of Eight and I don’t really think anyone is going to hold back, including Kyle Larson.

One thing does come to mind that could make a big difference, though. There are several that could take the win that are not in contention for making the final four. They’re hungry for a win and they’re not going to hold anything back either…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 23, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Texas Starts The Round Of Eight

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

The thing on everyone’s mind is wondering whether or not Denny Hamlin will win the first race of the Round of Eight as he has in the last two rounds. I’m thinking that may be a possibility but, I’m not willing to jump on that wagon at the moment. Both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson start on the front row and part of the Round of Eight right behind them. All of the remaining playoff drivers are starting in the top eight. Texas stats say a lot about some of the drivers and their ability to get around the mile and half oval at Texas. Without going into great detail right up front, there are a few other things to talk about first.

The feud between Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott seemed to continue last week at the Roval. When I say “seemed” I really mean “did” continue. There was no doubt Harvick meant to put Elliott out and possibly rob him of a chance to win another race at the Roval but I’m not so sure he meant it to be as severe as it was.

I find it interesting that both Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott had problems that could have prevented their continuing in the playoffs and both of their teams stepped up to keep them in the hunt. Of course, we already know Larson ended up winning the Roval and Elliott managed a twelfth-place finish with a highly damaged racecar. Harvick, however, ended up over-driving himself into the wall, ending his race for the day and his chance to move on in the playoffs.

I thought it was hilarious that Chase was catching up to him and we don’t really know what he might have done if he had but, Harvick put himself out of contention with no help from Chase. I suppose it is possible he thought something might happen when he did catch up but, I guess we’ll never know if Chase would have made good on his threat made in the heat of the moment.

Getting back to the race this weekend in Texas, there are several drivers besides Hamlin and Larson that could pull off the victory on Sunday afternoon. In particular, any of the Penske drivers could win this one. Whether you talk about Keselowski, Logano or Blaney, the Penske Fords have shown improvement over the last several weeks but they haven’t sealed the deal at the end of a race lately. Well, all three of them have won at least one race this season but, they have struggled. If I was going to pick any one of the three to win, I think it would probably have to be Ryan Blaney. Of the three, he has been the most consistent lately. I won’t completely rule out Keselowski or Logano from winning but there is a lot on the line and, if one of them does win any of the three races coming up, they will be in the final four. That is the motivation for the Penske drivers. If they win, they’re in the final four. If they don’t, well, they just may not make the cut, unless, they can point their way in.

Now, I guess you’re asking if I think one of the Penske drivers will be in the final four. Honestly, I do not. Well, except for the possibility of Ryan Blaney doing so. Of the three he is the one I think could make a showing for the Fords.

Next is the Joe Gibbs teams of Truex Jr. and Kyle Bush. Either one or both of these guys could make the final four. I’m not saying they will and I’m not saying they won’t. I’m just saying their chances are very good but, it is going to depend on how they do on their stronger tracks of which Texas is one. Another thing to consider is the 550 package NASCAR is having them run. It is one of the stronger packages for the Toyotas and that could shift the advantage to the Gibbs teams.

From this fan’s view, Chase Elliott is the unknown factor in the final results at Texas. His performance has been strong but it seems something always comes up to keep him from finishing up front. His run ins with Harvick have definitely hurt his situation and it remains to be seen if NASCAR’s talk with the two will make any difference in their feud, rivalry or what ever you want to call it. It has made for some added intensity in the races and, of course, the talking heads in usual fashion can’t leave it alone. Personally, I hope they have decided to leave it in the rear view and both can get back to racing for the win rather than revenge.

Still, I think Chase is a dark horse as the possible winner of this one. He, along with the other seven in the Round of Eight, is motivated by needing to perform and do everything possible to make the final four. These next three races are going to be filled with pressure and intensity, especially for those still in the playoffs and I don’t think any of them want to just run near the front. This is a 500 mile race and more than anything, I believe it’s all about winning. At the very worst, they all want to run at or near the front and win any and every stage point they can. The problem is, there are a bunch of drivers that want to walk away with a win and one of them is Kevin Harvick. I believe he is motivated to get his first win of the 2021 Season and make up for his costly mistake at the Roval…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 17, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

Who Will Make The Cut After The Roval

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Well… It’s that time again. You know, that time when four drivers will be eliminated from moving on to the Round of Eight. Yeah, you know the Roval is an elimination race and the pressure is on more than just the four that are already below the cutline. Denny Hamlin is the only one, at the moment, that really has very little to pressure him but, the rest of the twelve may have to do more than worry. With the points as close as they are, having a bad race at the Roval just about guarantees a driver will feel the pressure to perform from the first to the last lap. With all that going on, it is just about a guarantee that anything can and probably will happen, especially the unexpected.

When I look at the Roval, I think of how the playoffs have not been good for Kyle Larson. After having a strong start and finish to the regular season, it seems to this fan the old nemesis called “Racing Luck” has turned its heavy hand against the regular season champ. Even though he has had a fast racecar, things have happened to him that haven’t always been his fault. At one time, he was the crowd favorite to be the one all the others would be facing off with in the Final four for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship. He had plenty of stage points and five wins going into the playoffs and it appeared hardly anyone could touch him. Now, he is one point ahead of Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin has been outperforming the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports number five.

Without going into any in depth study of the details in comparing Denny Hamlin’s and Kyle Larson’s 2021 seasons, from my view it appears the roles have kinda reversed between the two. Early in the season, Denny Hamlin was probably one of the top performers and yet he went the whole regular season without a win. He was showing up with a fast racecar, the leading in points and it appeared he was going to not only be regular season champ but possibly the 2021 Cup Champ. It seemed no matter how well he ran, something always happened to keep him from Victory Lane. Then Kyle Larson began to take control of the season and had multiple wins, closed the points gap and ended up as the regular season champ, beating out Denny at the end of the regular season.

Now that the playoffs have started, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin show up to the races and often are considered to be the ones to beat. The difference being, Denny has won the opening race of the Round of Sixteen and the Round of Twelve and definitely will be moving on to the Round of Eight while Kyle seems to be struggling, has watched his huge points lead diminish and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, could miss moving on to the Round of Eight. Of course, that would be difficult indeed but, a bad day at the Roval could keep the top performer of the season from making it to the next round and possibly even the Final Four. As shocking as that may sound, it has to be considered judging from the happenings of the last two weeks. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he is in a must win situation, but he does have to have a solid day and good finish.

When it comes to those that are in a must-win situation to advance, both William Byron and Alex Bowman fill all the boxes. Since only one of them can win, one of them is definitely not going to make it to the next round. Although I realize my opinion doesn’t matter all that much, I don’t think either of them are going to make the Round of Eight.
From this fan’s view, Christopher Bell would definitely be a long shot, dark horse to win. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t win, I’m just saying he is not at the top of my list as possible winners this weekend at the Roval.

The real place of contention is between three drivers namely, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush and Chase Elliott. Since Kyle and Chase are tied at the moment and Harvick trails by nine points, just about anything can happen if any one or all three have problems and a bad finish. With his record on Road Courses, Chase is the likely choice to stay above the cutline in my book but, others are good road racers, too, and that might affect the possibility of all three of these drivers’ chances of moving on.

Unfortunately, with the way things stand right now, I believe this will be one of the most intense, pressure packed and emotionally charged races of the season and definitely what the playoffs are all about. There is no room for mistakes by any of the teams or drivers, especially those on the bubble. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Denny Hamlin has it made and probably won’t feel any pressure except the pressure he puts on himself to win at the Roval on Sunday afternoon. As for the rest of them…they have to be aggressive, they have to be tough should trying circumstances arise and, obviously, they have to run to win. If that doesn’t make for an afternoon of intense racing drama, I don’t know what will…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 9, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

The Pressure Is On At Talladega

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

There is always one thing predictable when the NASCAR Cup teams visit Talladega. Yeah, that’s right; you got it. It is unpredictable and it is one of the places on the NASCAR circuit that just about anyone in the starting lineup can win and that means, just about anyone can win. Now, it’s not likely that the most unexpected driver WILL win but it does mean even the least likely one of them CAN win depending on how things go on that last lap to take the checkered flag.

So, is that why the Super Speedways are so popular? Is that why you have to, at the very least, be there watching when the winner crosses the finish line and takes that checkered flag? Yeah, I do believe that has something to do with it and it usually proves out to be those final seconds of the race is when the winner either makes his final move or something happens to make taking the checkered flag a gift to an unsuspecting survivor.

Sure, I know there are those that use the old line of, “You have to be in it, to win it,” but I also know there are those that just happen to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of those final seconds when complete chaos breaks out. It wasn’t because of anything in particular they did, other than survive the race to the end, and it wasn’t because they had the superior equipment. It was because the race, basically, fell into their lap. (Hmmm… I think some call that racing luck and others, well, they just call it being lucky.)

I have to admit, there is something about Super Speedway racing that somehow manages to keep your attention. I also have to admit, there are times when the racing at Talladega (and Daytona for that matter) can become completely boring in the middle of a stage.

I’m not sure why I feel that way, but I do have a theory of my own. I’m sure you might be weary of me bringing up when I used to race but, I remember the nights when we ran lap after lap, door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper. For us drivers, it was intense to run like that and do some pushing and shoving to get the slower cars in front of us to move faster than maybe they ever had so we could open a gap to pass. We didn’t want to spin them out or cause them to wreck but we did want to win.

Sitting in the car, paying attention to all that was going on around us, front, sides and back, took a lot of concentration and focus. More often that not in those situations, the slower cars managed to hold the faster cars at bay and often we would all finish in the order we started. For those in the driver’s seat, it was intense fun. I do not know what it was like for the fans in the bleachers but either they enjoyed the same intensity we did or they might have been a bit bored since no one could advance or pass. I can only imagine they enjoyed the race because of the close racing and intensity.

I often find when I watch a Super Speedway race, there many times during the race my stomach is in knots just like on those nights I raced at the short tracks. I think that is why I like watching Super Speedway races all the way to the end. It’s because of those unknowns about what might happen at the very end. It’s about not knowing who might win until they actually cross that finish line.

So, just like we saw in the Round of Sixteen, the second race of this round is a place where the pressure is on to make up for bad performances in the first race of this round. Those that managed to pull out some good results a couple of weekends ago, fell below the cutline as of last weekend at Las Vegas. That makes this race at Talladega this weekend all the more important. From the talk going around, it appears really very few drivers are looking forward to the next two races. Well, that is other than Denny Hamlin since he is already in the round of eight with two races to basically coast and be out from under the pressure to perform.

Since this is Talladega and next weekend is the Roval, I just don’t see where anyone can afford to have a bad race. Except for a few, the points are just too tight and a bad race could mean not being able to move on to the next round. Talladega is a place where the unexpected happens with regularity and there is often the surprise winner and the chance of being involved in the Big One even when a driver is doing everything right.

Will this be a race that one of the non-playoff drivers wins? Will this be race that takes someone’s chance to move on to the next round away? Will this be a race that guarantees someone’s spot in the next round? All of these are great questions and I do wish I could give an opinion of which one is going to come to pass but I can’t. That’s why we’ll all be watching until those final seconds at the very end when one of these questions will be answered…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 2, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated