THE LEFT TURN

All eyes will be on NASCAR’s return to Darlington

Photo byJerry Markland/Getty Images.

Finally, after months of waiting the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the historic Darlington Raceway for the Real Heroes 400. This comes as a huge relief for fans not just of NASCAR but fans of sports in general. Come Sunday, there will be a lot of eyes on NASCAR that weren't there before so this could be huge for the sport. While it will be great to get cars back on the racetrack, the routine that we are used to seeing will be fairly different.

On Sunday, the drivers will drive into Darlington Speedway and be given a coronavirus test at the motorhome lot before the race. The spotters will not be where they are usually as well as they will all be spread out around the frontstretch bleachers. The biggest change of note will be the omission of practice and qualifying. The way that field will be set is by a draw of the top 12 in NASCAR's owner points.

The drawing was held live on Thursday and Brad Keselowski will lead the field to the green flag with Alex Bowman starting alongside him. There will also be a race on Wednesday as well with the field being set with how the first race finished including an inversion moving the 20th place finisher of the race on Sunday to the top of the grid. This will probably bring more attention to the 20th place finisher than ever before and I look forward to seeing how guys strategize to be the driver who is inverted.

In a time when everything is fluid, the world of NASCAR is no exception to this as they have completely revamped their 2020 schedule. Over the course of the next two months, the teams will be going to the tracks that are in the closest proximity to their shops in North Carolina. We will be seeing races at Darlington, Charlotte, Bristol, Martinsville, Talladega, and Homestead-Miami (Dale Earnhardt Jr will be making an appearance in the Xfinity race here). All without fans of course.

While this will be vastly different from what we are accustomed to, just watching a race will be a breath of fresh air and a good escape for the fans. One thing that will be awesome to watch is how tracks like Talladega or Homestead will react to the heat of the summer. It should be extremely slick and difficult for drivers to manage their tires, not to mention the fact that all of these drivers haven't been behind the wheel of a racecar in two months. It will be a lot of fun to see where this goes.

This week at Darlington, the driver to watch out for will have to be Matt Kenseth. After the suspension of Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi and his crew stunned the NASCAR world by tapping 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Matt Kenseth to take his place. Kenseth had been away from racing since 2018 but because of his expertise and close relationship with former and now current teammate Kurt Busch, the team decided that the Wisconsin native would be the perfect fit.

Overall, there aren't many other drivers that could bring the amount of experience and feedback that he can, so I think this is a great decision to bring him on board. He is coming to a track that hasn't been so kind to him. In his twenty-five races here, his average finish is 15.80. He does have a win here though back in 2013 when he drove for Joe Gibbs. It will be interesting to watch and see how he rebounds.

The driver that I have going to victory lane this week is Martin Truex Jr. Before all of this hit back in March, MTJ was the driver that I predicted would win at Atlanta and while this is a much different race track, I still believe that Truex will be the driver to beat. Over the last two races here, the 2017 champion has hit a bit of a rough patch as both finishes have been outside the top ten but this week, I think he will return to the success we were used to seeing back from 2016 to 2018. Look for the New Jersey native to take the checkered flag.

While sports are scarce right now, I understand that there is a possibility of new fans coming to the sport. There maybe some people that are reading this article that aren't too familiar with the sport and for all of those people, I say thank you for giving this a chance in such tough times. At a track like Darlington, you won't be disappointed. If you are interested in what goes on behind the scenes, NASCAR's website will be giving free scanner access all throughout the next two months that allow fans to listen to what the drivers are saying to their crew-chiefs. When it is all said and done, I believe that this race will go down as one of the most important races in sports history. You won't want to miss this one.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats)

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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