NASCAR heads for the Golden State for the Auto Club 400

Auto Club 400 preview

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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).

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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