Saturday Night Short-Tracking Under the Lights at Richmond


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Rusty Norman

The track record fell at RIR for qualifying this weekend for the first time since 2004. It is becoming a habit with the Gen 6 car and some say it is showing itself to be the fastest stock car NASCAR Cup has seen. Of course we all know there is more to racing than just speed and it remains to be seen if the race at Richmond International Raceway will be exciting or “just another race” when the Cup teams take to the track Saturday night, “under the lights.”

From this fan’s view the qualifying was interesting but, as in weeks past, was inconclusive for telling exactly which of the top qualifiers might have an advantage. Even with all of the hoopla this last week surrounding Matt Kenseth’s team and JGR, they still managed to put two cars on the front row. Of course that would be Matt Kenseth’s #20 Toyota on the pole and the #11 (of Denny Hamlin) driven this weekend by Bryan Vickers. I don’t know how you feel about that but from where I come from, it is called making a statement.

I have heard a lot talk this last week about how unfair many think NASCAR is being with JGR and Kenseth but from my view, rules are rules. Since the introduction of the Gen 6 car, it appears NASCAR has really come down hard in recent weeks with what many call outrageous fines and penalties and JGR and Penske have born the brunt of the so called “wrath of NASCAR.” I don’t really know how the appeals will go for either team, I just know that a line has to be drawn somewhere and it appears some lines have been crossed that shouldn’t be crossed, at least as far as NASCAR is concerned.

In some ways, I agree with those that have said the penalties seem a little excessive. In other ways, I see NASCAR’s point and have to agree with them to the point of, they have to do what they have to do (and to that point, they always have done it. )

Personally, I don’t think the real argument is what some are trying to make it. I don’t think JGR had any control over what happened, but it did happen and I do get the feeling, were the shoe on another’s foot, they would want NASCAR to handle it the way they did. I don’t think anyone thought the light rod made a hill of beans difference to how Kenseth finished or hs been running. The question in my mind is, what if two of the eight rods were found to be light? Would that have made the penalties more understandable? I know I’m headed down a dead-end street here, but, where is the line to be drawn and should it matter whether it was a mistake or whether the “intent” to actually gain an advantage was there or not? The facts are, the rod was light, the rule said it couldn’t be and that should settle it, (at least for now.)

On a more positive note, as a former racer, I like the way the engineers and crew chiefs constantly push the envelope when it comes to getting every ounce of speed out of these cars. Yes, sometimes they do work in the grey area (or maybe I should say they often work in the grey area) and sometimes that causes them to step over the line and causes a new rule to be made that specifically addresses that area in black and white.

I always remember the rule book we had for our local tracks. They all generally had the same statement tucked away somewhere in the pages that was a cover-all statement and it generally went like this… “Just because these rules don’t say you can’t do something, doesn’t mean you can.” Sure, I know that is a simplification of the actual statement but the point is, racer’s, crew chiefs and engineers are smart and innovative and they always seem to find a place in the rules that requires those rules to be written in a more specific way so the grey area is no longer grey. Sometimes it just has to say more than, “… Actions detrimental to Stock Car Racing.”

From this fan’s view, I expect a bit of break away at the beginning of the race much as we saw last week with Matt Kenseth taking off from his pole position and staying out front for many laps. The very same thing could happen tonight. Richmond is a fast track and we should all be treated to an exciting night of racing simply because it is very fast and considered a Short Track..

I can’t speak for you but I came away from qualifying with the same feeling I have developed over the last few races. I don’t think qualifying speeds tell the whole story but, I do think for those qualifying up front it gives a definite advantage all round to them. That being said, there are a lot of fast cars and great drivers starting in the top twenty-five whose speeds were only thousandths or hundredths slower than the others and I expect many of them will be pressing their way toward the front as the race progresses.

Have I picked winner yet? No, not really but I do think other than the JGR front row, Jeff Gordon has a very good shot for taking the win tonight. Clint Bowyer is another that runs very strong at RIR and I don’t expect him to be silent either. Dale Jr seemed very happy with his racing setup and that could mean a trip to Victory Lane for him by the end of the night, too. I never discount the Bush brothers (especially at Richmond) and lately Jamie McMurray has been running very consistently. Why, we might even see Martin Truex Jr taking the win tonight.

From this fan’s view, unless they make some very good adjustments I don’t expect the Fords to win tonight and it still appears to me the RCR teams just aren’t there yet with the Gen 6 car.

Judging from the practice sessions and the qualifying speeds being so close together, it is my opinion it will be hard to pass and I expect to see quite a bit of the old “bump and run.” Of course that will depend on whether or not those that want to pass can get close enough to use the “chrome horn” so they can pass. I also expect the difficulty in passing to take its toll on the drivers emotions and there could be a few tempers displayed by the end of the night. I mean, after all… This is basically Short Track racing on a Saturday night and we all know what that can mean, don’t we…?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 27, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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