Daytona 500 preview

The racing season kicks off Sunday with the Daytona 500. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Well folks, it’s finally here. After three long months of anticipation and changes a plenty, the stars of the Monster Energy Cup Series take to the high banks of Daytona for the great American race, the Daytona 500. Aside from the final race of the season at Homestead, this is arguably the most important race of the season. If you ask any NASCAR driver out there he or she will tell you that this is the hardest track to win at on the schedule. The track is an unforgiving 2.5 mile oval with the possibility of trouble lurking in all four corners and the possibility of “the big one” is always prevalent. Last year, there were four incidents that involved at least five cars. In some cases avoiding the big wrecks is the key to getting a good finish or possibly winning the race itself. For example, last year part time driver Brendan Gaugahn started in thirty-ninth of forty cars but he was able to lurk in the shadows for most of the race and in return he went on to a solid 11th place finish. While missing the wrecks is a big part of success in races like this, it is also important to note that if a driver is involved in a wreck, by no means are they out of contention. Last year’s winner Kurt Busch was involved in one of the many multi-car accidents last year but the team was somehow able to repair the car and get him to victory lane. Another factor that could come into play is team strategy during the three stages. More than likely we will see teammates pit at the same time to avoid one car losing the draft. Look for the Joe Gibbs and Furniture Row teams to be the first to pit. My predictions for the race go as follows: my winner of the race is Brad Keselowski. With a win in the clash last Sunday, automatically he becomes the favorite to win this Sunday. Not only has he been fast this weekend but when it comes to restrictor plate tracks he has been the “Pied Piper” so to speak. Over his career, Keselowski has accumulated a combined seven victories at Talladega and Daytona (Including last weekend’s non points race). If there is anyone that knows how to work the draft effectively, it has been him. While he had his fair share of bad luck in the past, the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford has always been close to the front. I think that this will be the race that he finally breaks through and gets his first Daytona 500 victory with his teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano in tow. Another driver to look out for is Daniel Suarez. The second-year driver was sixth in first practice plus he has shown enormous amounts of promise during his rookie season last year. Even though he has struggled at Daytona in both of his starts in the Cup Series, I think with a year under his belt and a better understanding of the Cup Car, he should fare much better this year. My dark horse pick to win is Aric Almirola. He is driving for a new team in 2018 with Stewart-Haas and while he has struggled in the past he is at the race track where he got his very first win in 2014. Not only is he good at Daytona, he was also second fastest in first practice so he definitely has speed. This Daytona 500 will have one of the best finishes of all time and I think this year we are primed to see an “upset” of sorts. I believe that Almirola can be the “underdog” and pull it off. It’s looking to be a great season and 2018 and I can’t wait to see how the Daytona 500 plays out.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driver and the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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