THE LEFT TURN

A look ahead at the 2021 NASCAR schedule

Here's what's ahead for NASCAR. Photo via: WikiCommons.

On Wednesday, NASCAR rolled out its 2021 schedule and BOY is it big. There will be several wholesale changes going into next year. It is clear that 2021 will be a new era in NASCAR. In this article I will go over all the major changes and what I like about the new tracks and what I don't like.

  • New tracks: So first and foremost there will be a lot of new tracks on the schedule for the first time in a long time. Those tracks are Nashville Superspeedway, Road America in Wisconsin and Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Overall, I couldn't be more pleased that NASCAR is going to a lot of new venues next season. This has been what NASCAR fans have been asking for. I look forward to seeing how these cars run on these new tracks, especially the track in Austin. This had been rumored for many years and after going to the track a couple of times, I look forward to seeing the cup cars here in 2021. I am also looking forward to seeing Road America as well considering how great the racing has been in the Xfinity Series. All of these new tracks will certainly be a learning experience for each driver
  • New layouts: Aside from new tracks, we will also see a lot of new layouts on some of the old tracks as well. The most notable of changes has to be Bristol as it was announced that next season, the track will be revamped into a dirt track for NASCAR's first dirt race since 1970! This had been a rumor that was picking up steam and was confirmed on Wednesday. Personally, I have no idea how this will work. It is possible for NASCAR to run on dirt as they have been running the trucks at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway since 2013. Me personally, I am not sure how well this is going to work, will NASCAR run qualifying races? It will be interesting to see what type of format they run with this. Another factor I am looking forward to is the possibility that we may see some Dirt Track regulars run this race. I am cautiously optimistic about this race but it should be fun regardless. Another new layout we will see next season is at the Brickyard as instead of running like the oval like we have seen since 1994, they will run the road course configuration instead. This is something I have been calling for since 2018 when the Charlotte Roval started. I am excited to see how this works out considering the Xfinity cars ran here on the fourth of July this year.
  • The new dates: One thing that will also drastically change next season is the dates the races will be on. Next season, we will see tracks like Texas and Homestead run at a much different time in the season than we are accustomed to. The All-Star Race will also be moved to a new date and a new track as it will be run on June 13th-14th at Texas Motor Speedway. We will also see tracks Atlanta and Darlington get another race as NASCAR tries to return to its roots. I personally am extremely excited to see Darlington get another race back considering it's one of the hardest tracks to run on.
  • The tracks we lost in 2021: With new tracks unfortunately comes the subtraction for some of the old ones. Next season there will be two tracks that NASCAR doesn't return to, those being Chicagoland and Kentucky. It is fairly ironic that these two would get the axe considering they are relatively newer tracks. I feel awful for the people in both of these markets that won't be able to watch a race at their home track and I hope that in some way these tracks can stick around, especially Chicagoland considering the awesome racing we have seen there over the past couple of years.

Next season will be uncharted water for this sport but a change of pace is good. I look forward to seeing what they do going forward in the next few years and seeing if there are any more new tracks that will be added. Here is to a new future in both the real world and in the NASCAR world.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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