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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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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