THE LEFT TURN

A look ahead at the 2021 NASCAR schedule

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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Following Houston's 6-4 road trip, the Astros returned home to finish the first "half" of the season before the All Star break hosting Florida and Texas. Houston's road trip was filled with clutch performances in New York, dominance in taking 3 of 4 in Toronto, and a dose of close calls and tough realities with a short-handed team against Minnesota.

Now the Astros hope to take care of business against the lowly Marlins and division rival Rangers. The Texas series, in particular gives Houston the opportunity to reassert their hold on the #2 spot ahead of the Rangers who have won their last 5 games in a row (as of the time this was published). Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and hope to catch a free-falling Seattle team to overtake the division lead.

Dana Brown told the media last week he expects both Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker to be reactivated following the All-Star break but Tucker's updates continue to be more promising than Verlander's and MUCH more promising than Lance McCullers. Astros manager informed the media this week that McCullers has been shut down from throwing after his arm did not respond well to his recent bullpen sessions and the team is formulating the plan for what's next for the embattled pitcher. McCullers hasn't pitched since the 2022 postseason and underwent season-ending flexor tendon surgery last June. McCullers is under contract with Houston until 2026.

An eventual return for Kyle Tucker would spur a juggling act from Joe Espada to find a proper balance of time for all his outfielders, none of which have separated themselves offensively. Chas McCormick had a great month of June recording an .804 OPS but that run looks more like an anomaly as his scuffles have continued over the past 2.5 weeks, recording just 4 hits over his last 32 plate appearances.

While Jake Meyers has wowed fans and teammates with his glove this season, his offense has hit a skid, hitting just .184 with a .565 OPS over the past month. After rookie Joey Loperfido's torrid debut, he too has struggled with the bat, hitting just .216 with .599 OPS over the same time period.

An unexpected bright spot has been the recent play of first baseman Jon Singleton. Over the last 4 weeks, "Big Jon" is batting .302 with an .802 OPS. It's worth mentioning that Singleton's season numbers are better than Florida's Josh Bell, who drew interest from Astros fans over the past several seasons as a potential answer at first base. Bell has 135 more ABs this season so its not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but there's no doubt Singleton's contributions were sorely needed following the release of Jose Abreu.

To watch part 1 of this week's episode of Stone Cold StrosStone Cold Stros, just click the video above or to listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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