THE LEFT TURN

Alsco Uniforms 500: More NASCAR midweek racing coming your way

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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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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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