It's the end of an era as NASCAR heads for Daytona for the final time in July

NASCAR Coke Zero 400 preview

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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).

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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