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 gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

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