NASCAR heads for Bristol for the second short track race of the season.

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This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Thunder Valley at Bristol Motor Speedway. This is the first of Bristol's two races in 2019. This track is one of the hottest tickets in NASCAR and it has some of the highest banking on the schedule. For a track the size of Bristol, the banking makes for some of the best racing all season. The term "the Bristol stomp" may have originated as a popular dance craze from the song by The Dovells back in the 60's but here it is a reality. While there is limited space to pass, the best way to get around someone here would be to knock them out of the way. This has been a way of life for this track ever since its inception into the NASCAR schedule all the way back in 1961 and this week should be no different.

Last week, Denny Hamlin was able to hang on and claim his second win of 2019 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race had many intriguing moments all throughout the day. Overall, there were 26 lead changes. This comes as a breath of fresh air seeing how critical many fans and drivers have been of this 21 year old track over the last few years. One of the main headlines of this race was the apparent resurgence of seven time champion Jimmie Johnson. After winning the pole on Friday, he went on to lead 60 laps and claim a fifth place finish. While it wasn't a win this team seems to be on the verge of finding their rhythm especially with Dover (Johnson's best track) coming in the not too distant future.

On Thursday, It was announced that longtime Broadcaster and NASCAR Hall of fame member Darrell Waltrip will call it a career when Fox ends it's coverage of NASCAR in June. This was first reported on by polarizing journalist Jenna Fryer. She wrote an article earlier this week talking about how a change will benefit the coverage that Fox puts out. Some of the terms she used to describe Waltrip's commentary were "stale." She also took issue with him talking too much about the "good ole days." of when he raced as well. This article did not sit well with most of NASCAR's community. Drivers like Kenny Wallace called her article "degrading" to the NASCAR legend. In the grand scheme of things, DW is an icon to this sport. He blazed the trail for a lot of drivers to go into broadcasting after their careers were over, and if there has been one thing that doesn't go over well with the NASCAR faithful, it's to be critical of one of the sport's heroes. At the end of the day, While it may have not been Fryer's intent to "degrade" Waltrip, I think overall she could have used better verbiage to describe Waltrip's commentary style. When all is said in done though, this sport would not be what it is today without DW's contributions on and off the track. I for one will miss hearing him in the booth in 2020 and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.

The driver to watch this weekend at Bristol has to be Kyle Larson. Over his career, Larson's results here have been up in down but every time we have seen him run at this track, he has always been a contender to win. I see him finally breaking through this week and conquering this track that has been so difficult on him in the past. If he is to win, this would come at the best time possible considering this has been a seemingly difficult track for the young driver. Look for Larson to take his Camaro to victory lane.

(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).(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).

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads back to Kansas

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NASCAR makes their second trip to Kansas this week for the Hollywood Casino 400. This is the final race in NASCAR's round of 12 as each driver looks to get closer to the semifinal round of eight. The last time the Cup series was here was back in May, Brad Keselowski pulled off the victory in one of the best races of 2019 as he held off a charge from Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer to claim his second win of the season. When the cup series came here in year's past, this was one of the more calmer races but ever since NASCAR introduced the new Aero Package, the field has been way closer. According to racing-reference, the spring race here had an average of 15 green flag passes per lap. While many fans have been extremely critical of NASCAR's new package, they simply cannot deny how much it has improved the racing on tracks like Kansas and Chicago. It will be interesting to see how much the circumstances of this being an elimination race will raise the urgency come Sunday.

Last week, the finish of Talladega was pushed back a day after rains suspended all on track activity on Sunday. After the conclusion of the first stage, the field was halted for over two hours until race officials decided to call it a day. During the rain delay, Chevrolet executive Jim Campbell called in an impromptu meeting with all of his drivers and demanded they all form a single-file line to help a Chevy win the race. According to driver Corey LaJoie, if drivers didn't comply, they would lose their company car and would lose time on the team's simulator which is a valuable tool for divers to get better at certain tracks. As you can tell, this was not received well by drivers and fans alike. One of the critics of this decision was 1999 Winston Cup Champion Dale Jarrett. When asked about it, he responded by saying "this has no place in NASCAR."And as a lifelong fan and owner of a Chevrolet, I must say that I agree with the critics on this. Working together on tracks like Talladega is one thing but to threaten drivers who don't comply by taking away time on the simulator is incredibly stupid. This is another example of how corporate this sport has become over the years and is simply not a good direction for the sport. As the race went on, it appeared as if the manufacturer was actually hurt by this as their top drivers Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson were all collected in an incident that ended their chances to win and quite possibly might cost Bowman a shot at the championship.

Needless to say, the race went on and featured one of the all-time greatest finishes in NASCAR History as Ryan Blaney was able to pass Ryan Newman in the final hundred yards and win by a margin of 00.7 tenths of a second making it the ninth closest finish in NASCAR History. Overall, this race had everything you would expect in a race at Talladega. It had multiple big crashes (including a flip by Brendan Gaughan), the lead changes and of course to top it all off, a photo finish. This great finish came at a good time for NASCAR considering the race at Dover a week earlier wasn't all that exciting.

Last week's race at Talladega was riddled with playoff implications as all twelve drivers were involved in some sort of incident including race winner Ryan Blaney. Overall, the drivers outside of the top eight are William Byron, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. It is going to be extremely difficult for any one of these drivers to get it on points so it is more than likely that they will have to win to get in. When I look at these four drivers, I think all of them have a good shot to win as they have all been fast here.

This leads me to the driver I predict will win come Sunday and that driver is Alex Bowman. This track falls right into his wheel-house, he ran extremely well here as he led 63 laps and came extremely close to winning but had to settle for second place. This was tough for Bowman considering he had finished second three times in a row up to that point. This week, I think that Bowman gets his redemption for the spring race and he does it when he needs it the most to get into the round of 8. Look for Bowman to take the #88 Camaro to victory lane for his second career win.

(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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