Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads ends its western swing as they head for the high banks of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. For many, this track is one of the wildcards on the schedule and with this new aero package and the track's two mile length, the racing is sure to be a whole lot closer come Sunday. In this year's off-season testing, drivers Daniel Suarez, defending champion Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr were all invited to a tire test here at the track with all of the new changes in place including the tapered spacer and new Aero Ducts. Overall, the cars were much more closer together than we have been accustomed to seeing over the years and if that was just with three cars, I can't imagine how crazy it's going to look with a full field of 38. It's shaping up to be one of the most exciting races of 2019.
Last week, Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell stole the headlines after the two were involved in a scrum after qualifying. Towards the end of the session, Suarez was in the middle of his qualifying lap when he encountered McDowell who was finished with his run. Suarez claimed that McDowell killed his momentum and slowed him down so when the session was over, Suarez approached McDowell to confront him and the "fight" was on. After McDowell pushed Suarez, Daniel threw McDowell to the ground. Both were separated by McDowell's crew-chief, Drew Blickensderfer. It has been a while since we have seen a full on physical altercation in NASCAR, the last time there was anything close was Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin at Martinsville back in 2017 and even then that was more of a heated discussion than anything. After the chain of events many fans were ecstatic to see the drama and Suarez gained a lot of new fans via twitter as well. Overall, while the reception of the fight was mostly positive there was a section of racing purists who were not to keen on the kind of publicity that would come with the fight. While I can sort of understand their opinion, these kinds of things are what the sport was built off of. Most would say that without the fight that Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough had in Daytona in 1979, this sport wouldn't be as popular as it is today. The emotions we saw with Suarez and McDowell is how racing used to be, fight now then talk it out after words which they did. I for one am glad to see the drivers finally coming out of their shell and showing some character, something we haven't seen very much of over the past few years.
The favorite going into this race has to be Martin Truex Jr. Last year he kicked off his incredible season by getting his first win of the season here. While this year there are much different circumstances and the racing is supposed to be vastly different this time around, it's no secret that MTJ knows his way around Auto Club speedway. Since 2017, Truex hasn't finished lower than second, he has also led more laps than any active driver in that time span as well. While he is with a new team at Joe Gibbs Racing, the fact remains that he will be the car to beat come sunday. Look for Truex to claim his first win of the season and begin his journey to a second NASCAR championship.
While there has been a lot of static about these new cars this year, and this type of racetrack is what these cars are made for; it should be a can't miss race come Sunday.
(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).
With a new season on the horizon, the Astros have high hopes for 2024 after coming just one game shy of being in the World Series for three consecutive seasons.
If Houston wants to get back to the Fall Classic in 2024, they're going to have to rely on their pitching. Owner Jim Crane believes the club has 8 starting pitchers when Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. return mid-season.
Which allows several of the starters to move to the bullpen and provide even more depth. Add those guys to Bryan Abreu, Ryan Pressly, and Josh Hader and you have a recipe for success.
Check out the video above as ESPN Houston's Jeremy Branham goes through the entire staff and makes his case for the Astros having the best pitching staff in baseball.
You can listen to The Killer B's with Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank every weekday on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5 from 3 pm - 6 pm!