THE LEFT TURN

Here's everything you need to know about NASCAR's midweek racing

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

The Cup Series returns to Darlington for the Darlington 500k. This will be an important race in NASCAR history as it will be the first race to ever be run on a Wednesday. This is a huge milestone for the sport considering there has never been a race run this late in the week. For years, the idea of racing during the middle of the week had been floated around but it took a global pandemic to finally convince NASCAR to pull the trigger. Considering that the race will be on in prime-time and that there isn't much going on in the sports-world, all eyes will be on Darlington. The field will be set with Ryan Preece and Ty Dillion on the front row as both drivers finished 20th and 19th.

On Sunday, Kevin Harvick drove off into the sunset en route to his fifteenth career win. While Harvick did lead a race-high 159 laps, the story of the race was Hendrick Motorsports and what appeared to be their breakout race. In the early stages of the race all four team cars occupied four of the top five spots as Jimmie Johnson took the lead from Brad Keselowski with his teammate's William Byron, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott behind him. Jimmie and his teammates appeared to be in position for a great result until lap eighty-nine when Johnson ran into the lapped car of Chris Buescher sending him into the backstretch wall ending his day.

After this, it was the young William Byron's turn to find misfortune as he would suffer a blown tire sending him around and ending any chances of him getting his first win. Even Chase Elliott ran into trouble as well after he was nabbed for speeding off pit-road, he would however recover to finish fourth. The only Hendrick driver who really had a clean race was Alex Bowman as he spent most of the day in the top three. While the results may not have been exactly what Rick Hendrick and his team would have hoped for, Sunday's race was definitely a breath of fresh air for the struggling team. They will be the team to watch come Wednesday.

Lost in all the storylines, one pleasant surprise was John-Hunter Nemechek and Tyler Reddick and their impressive 6th and 9th place finishes. For Nemechek, this is not only his first top ten finish but the first top ten finish for his team on a track that isn't Talladega or Daytona. The second generation driver has shown flashes of potential in all of his other previous starts but to come to arguably the toughest race track in America and run as good as he did really speaks volumes to how talented this young man is and what he can do in the future. His rookie counterpart Tyler Reddick also had a great showing as he went on to finish 6th. In his opportunities in the cup series, the California native continues to impress fans and drivers alike as he continues to run near the top-5 and top-10 on a weekly basis. I look forward to seeing how he follows this up.

Racing wasn't the only thing that made its comeback on Sunday as both Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth also made their return as well. As we all know, Newman was involved in one of the scariest accidents we have ever seen. Because of the injuries he sustained, he missed three races but because of the break, Newman had time to heal and miraculously was able to return to racing. For most of the race, he ran around the top ten until spinning out in turn 1 on lap 254. Despite all this he was able to rebound and finish sixteenth. Matt Kenseth was also impressive in his return as well as he finished tenth. What made this so impressive was how long was out and how much the sport has changed in his absence. For both of these drivers to run as well as they did really shows how talented these drivers are. It will be fun to watch how they do come Wednesday.

The driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. After an impressive third place showing on Sunday, Kurt has shown a lot of speed this year and has been one of the most consistent drivers on the grid. Over the last three races, he has yet to finish worse than third. The 2004 champion is primed for a breakthrough, Look for him to capture his first win here and secure his spot in the playoffs.


(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)

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, including the extra-inning affair on Saturday, the Astros looked to defeat the Angels on Saturday to secure the series win and leave Los Angeles with a winning record. On the mound were two pitchers looking to shrug off bad debuts to the season. Here is how the game went on Sunday afternoon:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 6, Angels 5.

Record: 5-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jacob Barnes (0-2, 3.86 ERA).

James walks his way into trouble

After a disastrous start to his pitching season where he was unable to record an out, Shohei Ohtani was able to sit down the Astros 1-2-3 on just eight pitches in the top of the first. However, Houston would take advantage of his struggling command in the top of the second, working three straight walks to load the bases with no outs. They then would get two more walks with two outs to grab an early 2-0 lead and end Ohtani's day early yet again.

Meanwhile, on the mound for Houston was Josh James. He, too, allowed some walks but was able to work around them in the first two innings, erasing two in the bottom of the first and one in the second for two scoreless innings.

That changed in the third when he would walk the bases loaded with two outs before Albert Pujols continued his nearly twenty-year reign of being a thorn in Houston's side, hitting a grand slam, Los Angeles' first hit of the day, to put the Angels up 4-2. James would get the final out of the third, but that would conclude his day, making it two straight starts he would be unable to reach the fourth inning. His final line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4K, 1 HR.

Valdez impresses as Bregman makes it a one-run game in the seventh

Framber Valdez was first out of Houston' bullpen, likely to try and eat up several innings. He would accomplish that mission, getting through the next three innings scoreless, holding the 4-2 score. It remained locked on that score despite Houston getting runners on base in each of those innings, as they would struggle to turn players on base into runs yet again in this series.

Alex Bregman gave the Astros a spark in the top of the seventh, leading off the inning with a solo home run to straightaway center to make it a one-run game. Valdez returned for yet another inning, another scoreless frame to keep it 4-3 going to the eighth.

Reddick ties it in the ninth, Astros win in extras

Houston would threaten to tie in the top of the eighth, getting a pinch-hitting Carlos Correa to third base after a single to leadoff the inning, but would be unable to score him, leaving it at 4-3. Valdez would record another scoreless inning in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Astros one more chance to tie or go ahead in the top of the ninth.

Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double and was pinch-run by Myles Straw, who would score the tying run on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick, but the Angels would hold the Astros there. Valdez remained in the game trying to push extra innings and would do so, erasing a leadoff walk.

Kyle Tucker started the top of the tenth on second base and moved to third on a sac fly by Carlos Correa to start the inning before scoring on another sac fly, this time from pinch-hitting Garrett Stubbs to give Houston a 5-4 lead. Valdez, well above his comfortable pitch count, was still on the mound in the bottom of the tenth, and allowed his first run, though unearned, on a leadoff RBI-single to tie the game again at 5-5. He would get one more out before Houston moved to another reliever, bringing in Andre Scrubb.

After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Scrubb would walk the bases loaded before getting a popout, then Houston would turn to Blake Taylor. Taylor would come through, getting a big strikeout to send the game to the eleventh. Springer started on second in the top of the inning and would score and put the Astros back in front on a one-out RBI-single by Alex Bregman. In the bottom half, Taylor would get through the inning, giving Houston the win and series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will have a day off tomorrow before picking up a three-game set with the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Tuesday. The opening game of that series will be at 8:10 PM Central. While Arizona is expected to start Madison Bumgarner, the Astros will have to pivot as they had Framber Valdez slated for that start, who made a lengthy appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome