Winning is Everything For Some at Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman
Go ahead… you can pretty much count those that have a chance of making the Wildcard spots for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase on one hand – that is unless something really unexpected happens. I mean let’s face it, most of the “ones in the know” are focused only on those they “think” have a chance to win and that could be a problem if someone other than their choices in the top twenty wins more than two of the next four races.

Look, I agree with them if everything goes like everyone expects, but, what if someone like Paul Menard, Jeff Burton or Jamie McMurray wins two or three of the next four races. Would that change the face of the Chase the way it sits right now? Yep, you bet it would. Is it likely to happen? Probably not (depending on who you ask) but it is a possibility that has to be considered (just in case.)

With all of the problems certain teams have been facing in the final practice sessions, the face of the race on Sunday afternoon may have already changed. Jimmie Johnson’s blown engine and Dale Jr hitting the wall hard near the end of the final practice didn’t help the outlook for either of them. Now instead of going from where they qualified, they will have to start from the back. Since we’re talking Michigan, that’s not such a bad thing but I am sure they would rather have not had to do that. Considering that Jr was running the same car he won with in June before he backed it into the wall, I’m sure his confidence level in the backup car is not quite as high as it was. As for Jimmie, well… he doesn’t need the win but he was looking for his first career win at MIS and now he is going to have work at it a bit harder if he hopes to take it.

Of course Dale Jr and Jimmie Johnson aren’t the only ones starting in the middle to the back of the pack. Several of those in the hunt for a Wildcard spot won’t be starting up front but do hope to finish up there. Kyle Bush, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin all need to win or have a good finish to either improve their chances for making the Wildcard spots or improving their confidence for when the Chase starts.

Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose have both admitted it’s not about points anymore but about wins. Either one of them need a win or two over the next four races to make it into the Chase and without at least one or two more of them, they will both be on the outside looking in.

From this fan’s view it appears the racing groove is not something the drivers want to get out of this weekend. Anywhere in the gray above the groove appears to yield the possibility of disaster for just about anyone that does venture into that part of the track. With the speeds being what they are this weekend, it is possible there could be some engine failures or wrecked race cars simply because of the reduced reaction time and how fast things happen in the turns. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, that could open the door for someone unexpected to win if things don’t go as expected.

From my view, this is going to be a fast race with few cautions. There is plenty of room for passing and plenty of time to move from the back to the front. If some experience problems early and end up in the back, they will still have a good chance of moving back through the pack to the front but a lot is going to depend on track position. There will be no room for mistakes in the pits and fuel is going to be one of the deciding factors in today’s race (at least from this fan’s view.)

Even though the top ten for making the Chase is pretty much set in stone there is still the possibility of some shaking up if things continue on as they have. Kasey Kahne pretty much still has a lock on the eleventh and first Wildcard spot (unless he experiences problems like he had at the first of the season.)

It is a completely different story for the twelfth spot though. Over the next four weekends anything can happen when it comes to that. It is all about winning and it is everything to those that hope to make the Wildcard slots in the Chase. If things continue on as they have over the last few weeks, it is anybody’s guess which top twelve will enter into the Chase. I’m not sure which ones it will be but I am sure, making this season’s Chase is going down to the wire…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 19, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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