THE LEFT TURN

Alsco Uniforms 500: More NASCAR midweek racing coming your way

Image via: Wiki Commons

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway once again for the Alsco Uniforms 500. This will be the second midweek race of this young 2020 season as the Cup Series continues to roll on. This race will be much different from what we saw on Sunday as it's a much shorter race, so the urgency will be ramped up as they return to their normal three stage format. While at first it has been a bit of an adjustment to see Cup Racing on Wednesdays, this has so far been a home run for NASCAR as viewership among non-race fans continues to grow exponentially.

In the Coke 600, it appeared as if team Hendrick was on their way to another victory as Chase Elliott was driving away in the closing stages, but with two laps to go his teammate William Byron cut down a tire and spun forcing a green white checkered. In a questionable decision, Elliott's Crew-Chief Alan Gustafson decided to bring his driver down pit-road to get tires that left him marred back in traffic and handed the victory to Brad Keselowski. While he did recover to finish in second, this was easily a race he could have won. According to Chase, the caution left the #9 team in a no win situation. If they didn't decide to pit then everyone behind them would have, and if they did, the rest of the field would have stayed out.

Even if I can understand the logic behind it, staying out would have given him the best chance to win considering he had the clean air and only needed to fend off the traffic for two laps. While this one will definitely sting for Chase and his crew, it is a welcome sight to see how well they ran before the unfortunate circumstances. While Chase might have been disappointed, his teammate Jimmie Johnson's night was much worse. Originally, Johnson finished second but after post-race inspection it was determined that the 7-time champion had a rear-end realignment failure. As a result he was disqualified and finished 40th. This is only the second time in NASCAR Cup Series history that a race result has been taken away. Last season, Erik Jones was disqualified at Richmond. It will be a quick turnaround for the team as they look to get back on track on Wednesday.

While Hendrick was licking their wounds, team Penske was celebrating after their driver Brad Keselowski went on to claim his thirty-first career victory. Even though his teammate Joey Logano struggled a bit, both Brad and Ryan Blaney were able to get good results as Blaney was able to rebound for a third-place finish after struggling all throughout the night. While the win for Brad might have come under unusual circumstances, he showed that he was a threat to win as he led twenty-one laps earlier in the race. As we all know, there is much speculation as to where Brad is going to go next season, will he return to the #2 car or will he jump ship and move on to Hendrick motorsports? With this victory, I believe that this could very well restore his confidence back in his team and bring him back. Only time will tell as the 2020 season continues on.

In the pre-season there was a lot of hype and intrigue surrounding this year's rookie class. Drivers Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell were highly regarded as the three names that will mold the future of the sport and this week they were all very impressive. Norman Oklahoma native Christopher Bell was able to claim his best finish of 9th after rebounding from a spin earlier in the race. His rival Tyler Reddick was also equally fast as he finished one spot higher in 9th. Both drivers have put together two really great showings as last week at Darlington, Bell was able to finish 11th with Reddick finishing 13th respectably. This year, I believe both drivers are dark-horse candidates to win a race or make the playoffs at least on points.

The third driver of this trio, Cole Custer was able to get a good showing as well as he finished 12th in his Stewart-Haas Mustang. With the equipment he has, everyone has been waiting for the other shoe to drop for him but it just seemed like they couldn't get the results to go their way. I look for him to continue to improve and score more points as he tries to make the playoffs. Last but not least, John-Hunter Nemechek continues to exceed everyone's expectations as he went on to finish in 16th position. After a disappointing performance during the mid-week Darlington race, the second generation driver was able to rebound with another solid top-twenty finish. This young man continues to prove why he is a name to look out for in the future should there be a ride that opens up. This rookie battle will certainly be one of the more intriguing storylines of the season.

The driver that I think will win Wednesday is Kyle Busch. This season has been very controversial for the two-time and defending champion. From wrecking one of NASCAR's most popular drivers to his decision to run in all the races including the ones in the truck and Xfinity series. Busch has been under immense scrutiny by the media and fans alike and surprisingly has yet to win a race this year. While he has great results this year, it hasn't looked like Kyle and his team have had race winning cars, but I think Wednesday will be different for him. He currently has the highest average finish of anyone here since 2018 as he's yet to finish lower than fourth including a win in the 2018 Coke 600. If there is anyone due for a victory, it's him. Plus, it will definitely help considering how much track time he will be getting by running the other two races including the Xfinity race he won on Monday. Look for Rowdy to get the ball rolling and claim another victory at Charlotte.

(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 offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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