THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR will be keeping it weird in Austin this weekend

Martin Truex Jr. is a good bet to make. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The time has finally come, NASCAR makes its highly anticipated debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. This is one of the most unique tracks not just on the NASCAR schedule, but on the F1 schedule as well. There are two long straightaways and an incredible elevation change entering the first corner. This is also a very long racetrack as most laps take about two minutes to finish, we could very well see a lot of fuel conservation come into play as well. The biggest thing to watch out for this week is the weather with tons of rain in the forecast this week in Austin, so it is a real possibility that we see a rain tire race for the first time in NASCAR Cup Series history. If you thought the prospect of running on a brand-new racetrack was crazy, just wait until rain is added to the equation. This will be one race even a casual fan wouldn't want to miss.

Last week at Dover, it was all Hendrick Motorsports as Alex Bowman went on to his second victory of 2021. His teammates Kyle Larson, William Byron and Chase Elliott all followed as it was the first 1-2-3-4 finish for the team and the first since 2005 when Jack Roush's team did it. There had been much speculation about this team, many believed that they missed a step over the past few years but after winning the title last year with Chase Elliott, it looks like they have found their return to glory. Of the races four-hundred laps, THREE-HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO laps were led by a Hendrick car! That is 96 percent of the race! While this team has been good here, this was a whole new level of domination. The rest of the field will have a lot of work to do if they want to keep up throughout the season.

Last Tuesday, Adam Stern dropped a bombshell on Twitter regarding the 2022 plans of NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski. It has been reported that Keselowski has been offered a ride and an ownership role at Roush Fenway Racing. This sent shockwaves through the racing world. No one could have ever expected this. While yes, Roush Racing is pretty good and car owner Jack Roush has a great relationship with the Ford Motor Company, they aren't on the level of his current team, Penske Racing. One thing to remember is that this report is simply a rumor and has not been confirmed. So this is all subject to change, but this could be a huge first domino to fall. It will be interesting to see what car he will drive next season and if this ownership role allows him to return to potentially reopening his old Camping World Truck Series team.

There are a lot of unknowns going into this week considering this is the first race here and there isn't really any data to show who the favorites could be. But if I had to pick a winner this week, I would have to say Martin Truex Jr is a good bet to make. He has really excelled at road courses and is always a favorite, plus he also showed a lot of speed when he was testing here last month with Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. I look for him to capture his fourth victory of 2021.

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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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