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 winning streak moves to six

Eighth-inning rally powers Astros to series sweep over Rangers

Yuli Gurriel brought in the go-ahead run late in Sunday's game. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Winners in the first three games of this series and their last five games overall, the Astros continued their climb towards the A's for first place in the AL West. They completed the four-game sweep, ending a successful homestand on a positive note before heading on the road.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 2

Astros' Record: 24-17, tied for first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Brooks Raley (2-2)

Losing Pitcher: Joely Rodriguez (1-2)

Astros strike first, McCullers Jr. goes six scoreless

After the Rangers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Houston grabbed an early lead off the bat of Alex Bregman. He provided the third single of the inning, a one-out RBI to put the Astros in front 1-0, a score which would hold steady for a while. Another run didn't come across until the bottom of the fifth when Houston would load the bases with one out when Carlos Correa would get an RBI groundball to double the lead to 2-0.

Lance McCullers Jr. did well with the small lead, backing up his recent eight-inning gem with a quality start against Texas. He allowed a couple of hits each in the third and fourth but would erase the runners with no damage allowed. The Rangers threatened in the top of the sixth with a leadoff double before the runner moved to third on a wild pitch, putting him in a great position with no outs. McCullers Jr. would come away unscathed, finishing the inning and his day by retiring the next three batters. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 95 P.

Rangers tie it against Scrubb

First out of Houston's bullpen was Andre Scrubb, and he would not fare as well as the Astros starter. A leadoff single turned into a two-run game-tying homer, making it 2-2 before Scrubb would sit down the next three in order. Still tied in the top of the eighth, Brooks Raley had a terrific inning, striking out the three batters he faced.

Houston rallies ahead in the eighth for the four-game sweep

The top of Houston's order mounted a threat in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with one out to try and regain the lead. Yuli Gurriel would come through with the go-ahead at-bat, getting a sac fly to put the Astros back in front 3-2. A two-out walk loaded the bases again, setting up Chas McCormick to provide two insurance runs on a two-RBI single.

Myles Straw added one more on an RBI single, making it a four-run game at 6-2 heading to the ninth. Enoli Paredes made his long-awaited return from the IL, appearing for the first time since April 8th to try and close things out in the ninth. He tossed a scoreless inning, finishing off the four-game sweep, extending Houston's winning streak to six games, and keeping them in step with Oakland for the AL West lead.

Up Next: After a day off on Monday, the Astros will begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday. They'll kick off a three-game set in Oakland against the A's at 8:40 PM, an exciting matchup to determine who will head into the weekend atop the division. While Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA) is the expected starter for Houston, Oakland has not yet determined their rotation for the series.

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