Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
NASCAR heads for the Sunny beaches of Daytona this week for the Coke Zero 400. This is one of the most prestigious races of the season as it is rich with tradition. When NASCAR comes to Daytona, The racing here as exciting as it gets. You see cars three and four wide and there is always a good chance we will see the big wreck. It should be must see TV come Sunday with NASCAR's new Aero package.
This will be the final time NASCAR races here at this date because someone thought that it would be a good idea to move the Coke Zero 400 to August. Over the course of its 71 year history, NASCAR has really made some bad decisions, from segmented racing, to their extra confusing points system and for me this decision is absolutely criminal. If there is one thing race fans always think of when the Fourth of July comes around, this race is it and for Jim France and the rest of the figure heads at NASCAR to do this they should be ashamed of themselves. This race will be replaced with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while I have nothing against this track but there is no reason to have a race at this date. I hope in 2021, when NASCAR changes everything up again like they do every other year, they put this race back where it belongs.
Last week at Chicago-land, Alex Bowman was able to hold off Kyle Larson to claim his first career victory. Overall, the race was fairly entertaining. There were plenty of passes all throughout the day and despite a lengthy rain delay, the fans that stuck around were treated to a fantastic conclusion. This victory came at a perfect time for the veteran driver as he is now locked into the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Over the course of his career, Alex has been one of those drivers who had a hard time getting in good equipment because of sponsorship. In 2015, his career was in serious jeopardy after he was released from former team Tommy Baldwin Racing. After nearly a year searching for a ride, he got a call from Dale Earnhardt Jr to drive in his xfinity car at Dover. He would go on to finish third and put the NASCAR world on notice. Things would only get better for him as he would be tapped to replace Earnhardt Jr in the #88 car the following season in 2018. He has really done a great job at getting good results for this team and there are more wins to come here in the future.
The driver that I have winning this weekend is Erik Jones. Last season, Jones was able to hold off Martin Truex Jr to claim his first career win, it couldn't have come at a better time for him either as many people were starting to wonder when he would get his first win. As great as 2018 was for him, this year hasn't been so kind to him as he is currently 17th in points and trying to get back into the playoff picture. The speed for him this season has been there and he has been competitive but a lot of different issues have come up that have cost him some good runs. As most NASCAR fans know, there have been many rumors circulating as to what is next for Jones going into the future. Many have wondered if Xfinity series phenom Christopher Bell will take his place in the next year or so. While I like Bell and believe that he will be great in this sport, I think that Erik has done more than enough to earn his spot as he has consistently been fast ever since he arrived at Joe Gibbs Racing last season. If there is any way to silence the critics is to go out and win and that's what I think he will do come Saturday night.
My Dark-horse pick for this weekend is Ryan Preece. It hasn't exactly been a great rookie season for him but Daytona is always one of the great equalizers, plus he finished a career high eighth place when they came here for the 500. Overall, I think he has a lot of talent and will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. I look for him to run well here at Daytona and possibly have a chance at winning.
(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).
While most of the Astros roster is returning for the 2024 season, there are still some areas of uncertainty for the club. Astros manager Joe Espada will have some tough decisions to make in his first season managing the team.
The Astros infield is set, so we know who will be playing on a nightly basis, assuming health. The outfield is where things get tricky. Espada told the Houston Chronicle last week that he hopes to play Alvarez more in left field this season, which would open up the DH spot for Chas McCormick and players he would like to rest while keeping their bat in the lineup (Yainer Diaz, Jose Altuve, etc).
Astros GM Dana Brown would like to see if Jake Meyers can hit well enough to play regularly in center field. This is a team that stresses defense, which Meyers provides. But if defense is the top priority, wouldn't that mean Chas McCormick should play left field with Yordan Alvarez hitting in the DH spot?
Certainly, there will be nights when that's the case. The reality of the situation is all these guys are going to play, but how much and where is yet to be seen.
Houston plays 20 games in 21 days to start the season, so it's not going to take long to see if Meyers is providing enough offense to play regularly. If we get into the month of May and Meyers is an offensive liability in the lineup, we won't be surprised if his playing time starts to decrease. But by how much?
Don't miss the video as we examine how Joe Espada will deploy his outfielders and get the most out of the DH this season!
Watch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.