THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 preview, picks

NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 preview, picks
Watch out for Ryan Blaney this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s a Memorial Day Tradition; The NASCAR Cup Series heads home to Charlotte for the annual Coca-Cola 600. This race is probably the third most crucial race all season, behind the Daytona 500 and the Season Finale at Phoenix. Anyone who wins this race will always be able to say that they were Coke 600 champions. No race on the schedule is as long as this one, because of this there will be a 4th stage added to the race. Teams will be provided 13 sets of tires, and if the last few weeks have been any indication, they will need all the tires they can get. With the race being as long as it is, there is a good possibility this could be an attrition race and the driver that survives will more than likely win. The record for the most cautions in NASCAR history was 22 cautions, at this same race in 2005. Come Sunday, I bet we get close to that number.

What's the deal with all of these tire failures? Last week in the All-Star race we saw drivers like Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Erik Jones all crash out because they had a flat. There are many factors that could be contributing to this, for one the tires are much wider and the sidewalls are much more narrow. Because of this, the tire falloff is much shorter, so now instead of going maybe 40-45 laps on one set of tires, drivers can now only go 25-30 laps. The other major facet is that a lot of teams are running much lower air pressures to get the car to handle better by being closer to the ground. Goodyear and NASCAR usually require the right side tires to run around 51-52 PSI, the rule however isn’t enforced for the left side tires, so drivers will push the limits to see how much they can take out to make the car faster. The fact that we were seeing such tire ware on smooth surfaces like Texas and Atlanta is a clear sign that there is a problem, but not all of it is on Goodyear. Only time will tell how this develops on tracks with old abrasive surfaces, like when they go back to Bristol in the fall.

One of NASCAR’s newest teams, Trackhouse racing, made a bit of a surprise announcement this week. Starting at Watkins Glenn in August, the team will run a third car with a series of international drivers, starting with 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. This is something that I think is interesting for the sport. I am a bit surprised that another team hasn’t already done this before. Having drivers like Kimi, one of the more world renowned racers in F1, can really bring a whole new audience to NASCAR. There have been rumors on whom some of the other drivers might be, from Daniel Riccardo to even Lewis Hamilton. There will be a lot of intrigue about who will be the next driver.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Ryan Blaney. After winning the All-Star race, it seems like Roger Penske and the rest of the Ford camp are picking up steam. Overall, Blaney tends to struggle at this track with an 18.8 average finish, but if last week is any indication of how his car will run on mile and halves like Charlotte, he will be a fierce contender for the win.

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Are they the best duo in the league moving forward? Composite Getty Image.

In the post-Super Bowl analysis, one key observation was … if you want success in today’s NFL, before anything else, you need a great coach and a great quarterback.

Like the Kansas City Chiefs duo of coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“As long as those two are together, the Chiefs will be serious contenders for the Super Bowl.”

If Houston Texans fans weren’t already champing at the bit for the 2024 season to start, this should put them over the moon.

Great coach? Check! Rookie coach DeMeco Ryans brought respectability back to a doddering franchise with a wave of his hand. He took a team that had won 11 games over the past three seasons – combined – and pushed the Texans to a 10-7 regular season record, an AFC South title and a home playoff victory. No wonder he tied Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski for NFL Coach of the Year only to lose the crown based on one measly first-place vote edge to Stefanski. Texans fans were livid. Where’s the My Pillow guy when you need him?

Great quarterback? Check! Rookie C.J. Stroud set the NFL on fire last season, throwing 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions. His accuracy and touch had NFL experts scratching their heads – has there ever been a rookie quarterback to match Stroud’s talent?

Let’s say it’s true, the key to success is having a great coach and great quarterback. The Texans would be a safe investment for the future.

Right now, the NFL is all about the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid is 65 and quarterback Mahomes is 28. They ain’t going anywhere for the next few seasons.

But not far behind in the coach-quarterback theorem are the Texans. DeMeco Ryans is 39 years old. C.J. Stroud is 22.

If you had to rate coach-quarterback combos, who are you taking for the next 10 years? Give me Ryans and Stroud. The Texans future is bright and young. You can’t even say, just wait for them to develop. The Texans are already there. Just wait till next season.

Back on Earth: I’m not comparing Stroud and Mahomes as players. Mahomes is the best, most talented quarterback I’ve ever seen. But it’s fair to compare their statistics from 2023 – and looking at raw numbers, Stroud stands toe-to-toe with Mahomes and had a better year in certain columns, like touchdowns vs. interceptions. Mahomes threw 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season.

Of course statistics are funny numbers. After the Chiefs victory over the 49ers, the networks were comparing Mahomes’ Super Bowl performances against the all-time greats.

It’s a fruitless challenge – comparing Mahomes to, say Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw is not oranges to oranges. The game has changed drastically since Bradshaw was throwing ropes to superstar receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, both of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bradshaw went 4-0 in Super Bowls. His stats must be elite, right? Not exactly. For his career, which included an MVP season and multiple Pro Bowl selections, Bradshaw completed a paltry 51.9 percent of his passes, a stat that would put him well at the bottom of the barrel in today’s NFL. Even more surprising, he threw 212 touchdowns and 210 interceptions – a ratio that would bench a modern quarterback.

The great Joe Namath? He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, too. Broadway Joe barely completed half of his passes, a career mark of 50.1 percent. He threw 173 touchdowns and a staggering 220 interceptions. Both numbers would have today’s fans screaming to put in the backup quarterback.

Like Jets fans hooted their quarterback Zach Wilson this year? Wilson was dead last, the lowest-rated quarterback in the entire NFL this season. Here’s how horrible Wilson was – he completed 60.1 percent of his passes in 2023, a significant improvement over Hall of Famers Bradshaw and Namath.

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