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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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