Twelve Take The Reset At Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

As far as the Sprint Cup Championship, everything is back to even at Charlotte Motor Speedway except for the fact there are only twelve taking the reset and moving forward into the second round of the Chase for 2016. Well… that is if it doesn’t rain. Oh, wait a minute… because of Hurricane Matthew, they’ve already moved the Saturday night race to Sunday at Noon ET. This is the second week of double headers as they’ve also moved the Xfinity Series race to after the Cup race on Sunday afternoon. I’m glad to see they at NASCAR aren’t pressing just to get the race in but are taking into consideration the difficulty the storm has brought to the people and fans in surrounding areas of Charlotte.

So, just in case you haven’t been paying attention, last weekend’s race eliminated four of the contenders and this week is the first of three races to cut the field down to eight as NASCAR Sprint Cup teams work to qualify for the final four at Homestead in November. I was around 50% on my choices of which ones would move on to round two and that was only mediocre in my own analysis of my choices. Now, I’m not sure how this three race segment will go but, if it is anything like the first segment it should prove to be interesting.

As a fan, I really was disappointed that neither of the Ganassi teams made the first cut into the second segment of the Chase. From this fan’s view, their fate was pretty much sealed by that old nemesis for many a racer called, “racing luck” and it was really the only thing that kept either Larson or McMurray from moving on, at least in this fan’s opinion. Had it not been for his engine failure, I personally think Jamie McMurray would have moved on instead of Austin Dillon (but then again that is just my opinion.) It has been my experience in the way things happen in racing, the ones that do move on are the ones that should and, more often than not, the opposite is true also. I guess that goes along with my philosophy that all things happen for a reason.

From this fan’s view, I have to wonder if this segment of three races will turn out much the same as the first one did. What I mean is, will it be a duel between Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. or will there be other players that show up in Victory Lane and those two struggle to move on to round three? I think that is what makes this Chase format so interesting at least for me. No one is guaranteed moving on in the rounds unless they win and, as hard as it is for me to repeat myself, I think racing luck will have a big say in whether or not two strong contenders for the Championship move on or not.

I find two things interesting as we move into this second round and those would be how the Hendrick teams are looking stronger than they did for most of the season and how the Joe Gibbs teams haven’t looked so dominating as they did earlier. Perhaps it is nothing but it could be that one of the Hendrick teams may have a shot at taking the Championship again this year.

I’m not going to open that door real wide for now but it is a distinct possibility if they continue to show up to the tracks with the speed they’ve been showing the last three weeks. Of course they will all have to stop making those mistakes that have been costing them dearly, in particular on pit road. Those mistakes from the drivers and the crew members have cost them dearly. From this fan’s view (and a lot of others, too) those have to stop and they have to stop now. They simply cannot afford to make costly errors and expect to continue on in the Chase.

When it comes to the Joe Gibbs Racing teams, I think they will begin showing up at the front more often and it will probably not be with just the associated Furniture Row team of Martin Truex Jr. I don’t know what it is but the JGR teams just haven’t looked as good as they did during the earlier parts of the season. I say that knowing it can all turn around again starting this weekend.

Just as a little side note from a NASCAR fan’s view, have you noticed that some of the rule and setup changes affect different drivers in different ways. I admit it may be coincidental but it seems the rules and setups favor some of the younger drivers more than the ones that have been around a while this season. Of course it is just my opinion and I don’t have any scientific facts to back it up but it does seem that way to me. For example, during the regular season the rookies and younger drivers seemed to excel while some that have been around a while struggled.

I’m sure you will bring up Kevin Harvick as an exception to that but he did struggle in the last part of the season even though he wasn’t one people mentioned about not making it to the Chase. I would counter with the difference in how Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have adapted and performed since Dale Jr. has been sidelined with his concussion recovery time. The two of them have adapted with differing degrees of success and the younger, Alex Bowman, seems to this fan to have adapted more quickly.

Tony Stewart is another example from my view. He did manage to win a race and get into the top thirty in points but he never has looked really strong all year and I don’t think it has a lot to do with the injuries he sustained before the season began. He never did look to be much of a threat when it came to the first three races of the Chase either. Now, I know that is just my opinion from my own observations but I do think the rules and setups for this year had more to do with his lack luster performances than just the Hendrick engine program being down in speed comparatively speaking.

Whatever the case, I do think these next three races will either prove my point or prove me wrong. Personally, I don’t care which way it goes and I do expect there to be some interesting developments as this segment progresses to the next and the elimination of four more teams heading to Homestead with a chance to win the Championship…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 8, 2016 – all rights reserved
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