The week in NASCAR

Big race at Texas Motor Speedway this week as season winds down

Texas Motor Speedway is the site of this week's NASCAR race. Texas Motor Speedway

This weekend the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series heads for the Lone Star state for race two of three in the round of eight. Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval located in Justin, Texas(42 miles outside of Dallas). This track was known for LONG green flag runs and pit road strategy but after Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (track owners) and Eddie Gossage (track president) decided to repave and reconfigure this track in 2016, the racing we have seen in the past is now long gone. Look for more passes, Side-by-side racing, and bumping this Sunday.

Last week at Martinsville was one of the most controversial finishes of the season as Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin were involved in a major dust up with two laps to go handing the victory to Kyle Busch. With the victory Busch ensures a spot in the championship race at Homestead in three weeks. While this win takes most of the pressure off, Busch is more than likely still going to be a major force. In his 23 starts at TMS his average finish is 11.74. Since 2015 though his average finish is 6.25 the fifth highest amongst active drivers. While he has only won there once, Busch has led 741 laps and has always been up front towards the end.

Even if Busch is good at this track, look for him to try and get out of Texas without any trouble and save their resources for Homestead.

After last week's NIGHTMARE, Chase Elliott looks to rebound and what better place to do it than at one of his best tracks. Going into next week, Elliott has the fourth highest finishing average amongst active drivers since 2015 at 6.25. Now granted he has only raced there three times but the results have been extremely impressive for the third-year driver. Elliot is 26 points behind Kevin Harvick for the fourth and final spot in the championship four so more than likely the only way to get there is to win one of the next two races. Look for the No. 24 to be up front this week.

My predictions go as followed: this week Kevin Harvick will put it all together to win at Texas, locking him into the final four at Homestead. Harvick is due to win at a track he has run so well at. Since 2015 his average finish has been fifth and the last race he led the second most laps (behind Ryan Blaney) in the race. With all the talk about how good Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson have been at intermediate tracks (Tracks that are 1.5 miles in length) Harvick has flown under the radar but I look for him to finally pull through and beat these two this week.

Other Drivers to look out for are obviously the favorites in Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. Both drivers have performed well here in the past, in fact Johnson has more wins here than anyone with seven. Look for those two to be in the hunt as well.

My dark horse driver this week is Dale Earnhardt Jr. It is no secret that Texas Motor Speedway is a track that holds sentimental value to him. In his first start here in 2000 Earnhardt got his first career win. He led a race high 106 laps and was the dominant car for most of the day seeing how he beat runner-up Jeff Burton by five seconds. While 2017 has been a farewell season Earnhardt and his millions of fans may want to forget, Texas has been one of his better tracks of late seeing how he finished second and third the last two times he has raced here. Could this be the race where he breaks out and gets maybe his final NASCAR victory? While it may look unlikely considering his mediocre average finish of 16.9 this year, if all the stars align I could not think of anywhere more fitting for him to win possibly his last race than the place where he won his first.

Look for the No. 88 to give it one last run for the win at Texas Motor Speedway.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driver averages.com and Racing-Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats)

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Houston gets back in the win column

Astros end six-game skid thanks to a gem by Greinke

Zack Greinke tossed a gem Saturday night. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After the Mariners roared back Friday night to get a walk-off win over the Astros, dashing their hopes of ending their losing streak, Houston tried to even the series with a win on Saturday night with their ace Zack Greinke on the mound. Greinke would do his part, throwing a terrific game, and the Astros would squeak out one run, which was enough to get back in the win column.

Final Score: Astros 1, Mariners 0

Astros' Record: 7-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Chris Flexen (1-1)

Plenty of hits, but only one run

Although the Astros were racking up hits against Chris Flexen, they had little to show for it. Eight different batters would notch ten hits against him, but the only time it amounted to a run was on a two-out RBI-single by Taylor Jones in the top of the fourth, giving Houston a 1-0 lead.

Greinke spins a gem

Luckily for them, Zack Greinke was making it look like that would be enough. He cruised through the Mariners all night, allowing just four hits while giving up zero runs along with six strikeouts, one of which moved him past 2,700 on his career. He could have attempted to finish the complete-game shutout, but at 91 pitches after eight, Dusty Baker opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly for the ninth. Greinke's final line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 91 P.

Houston finally ends their losing streak

With the high-leverage save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered to hold on to the one-run lead. He would do his job, finishing off the win for Greinke and putting an end to Houston's disappointing losing streak.

Up Next: The third and final game of this series will get underway at 3:10 PM Central on Sunday. Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 13.50 ERA) will look to make a rebound from his disappointing first start with the Astros, while the Mariners will start Nick Margevicius (0-1, 7.04 ERA).

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