THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Drydene 400 preview, predictions

Kevin Havick knows how to get around this place better than anyone. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR heads for the Monster Mile this week in Dover, Delaware for the Drydene 400. This track is one of the toughest tracks on the schedule as its concrete surface is tough on the cars. Also expect to see a lot more tire fall off than we are accustomed to seeing at other tracks. Another interesting characteristic of this track is its unique banking. There are very few places that have corners that are 24 degrees of banking and straightaways that have 8 degrees of banking. On a track like this, it's nearly impossible to get on pit-road without speeding. Look for speeding penalties to come into play.

Last week, Martin Truex took the field to school and went on to his thirtieth career victory at Darlington. Truex led a race-high 248 laps! This is his third victory of 2021 as he now extends his lead on the field. One of the more promising aspects of the race was the traditional 750 horsepower package NASCAR ran. It was clear that this was one of the most challenging races of the season, cars were slipping and sliding and on the edge of control all day. Even the best drivers had trouble as Kyle Busch spun out on lap twenty-three going for the lead. Fortunately he was able to rebound and get a solid third place finish. While some fans thought the racing was boring because of Truex's domination, it was refreshing to see each driver really have to work hard. I hope we continue to see this going forward.

One of the big storylines this year has been the recent struggles of Stewart-Haas Racing. Last season, they were one of the top three teams in the sport as all four of their cars were competing for wins each week. Last year, they were able to combine for ten wins and all four cars advanced to the playoffs. It seemed like going into this season they would pick up right where they left off as they added Xfinity Series phenom Chase Briscoe to the fold to drive the #14 Ford Mustang replacing Clint Bowyer. Things were looking promising until the season started. From the beginning it seemed like Kevin Harvick was the only car that was competitive. Not much has changed from the beginning of the season as he remains the only car in the playoff picture. His teammates Aric Almirola and Cole Custer have been awful as well as they sit 28th and 26th in points. This will be quite the storyline as the season progresses.

This leads me to the driver I have winning this week at Dover, and it's Kevin Harvick. As I mentioned this had been one of the most difficult seasons for the 2014 champion. While his results haven't been bad, he hasn't been as fast as he has been over the past few years. He currently has led only thirty-nine laps all season and has a disappointing four top five finishes throughout thirteen races with zero wins. This week is the week I think he turns it around though and gets Stewart-Haas Racing back on track and in the playoffs. This is a track that has been very good to him over his twenty-year career. He has three victories here including last season in August when he led over two-hundred laps. If you look at his average finishes here in the last six races, his worst result was sixth. He knows how to get around this place better than anyone. Look for Harvick to capture his first checkered flag of 2021 come Sunday.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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