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 another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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