THE LEFT TURN

Here's what you need to know about the NASCAR All-Star Race

Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol this week for their first annual All-Star race at the popular short-track. It was announced last month that the race would be held here instead of Charlotte where it usually takes place. If you ask everyone from fans, to the drivers, to the media, everyone is extremely excited about how this will turn out. Not to mention it will be the first race with fans as it was also announced that Bristol will allow up to 30,000 of them in the track, so it will be good to see people in the bleachers again. With the All-Star race being a non-points event, there will be a lot of differences than what we see in a normal race. The first major change this year (aside from the track) is when it will be run as for the first time we will see the race on a Wednesday as opposed to the usual Saturday night. It will be an adjustment to see this race during the week but overall, it is definitely something I can see happening in the future. It will be a fun event to watch.

The race's format remains fairly similar. As most fans know the main event will feature a field of each winner from 2019 and this year, a winner of the All-star race from 2010 onwards and a past champion. There will be four cars that advance from the constellation race called the open. Those are the cars that don't fit the criteria that would earn them a birth in the main event. In the open, there will be three segments and the winner of each will earn a spot in the All-Star race and a chance to win $1,000,000. There will also be a driver that will win the fan vote to get in as well.

There will be many cosmetic changes when it comes to the car including the decision to move the number back on the door and put the sponsor there. As you can expect, this was met with a lot of criticism. When I talked to the spotter for Bubba Wallace, Freddie Kraft, he told me that this decision will make it difficult to see which driver is which as the paint schemes change frequently. Hopefully, this will be a one-time thing for the sport as they move on with the new car in the next two years. Another major cosmetic change is NASCAR's decision to put lights underneath the cars to create an "underglow effect." Of all the things they are changing, this by far is my favorite. I look forward to seeing what this looks like.

Another new experiment NASCAR will be enacting is the choose cone rule. This will allow each driver to decide which lane they restart in. While the rule is titled the "choose cone" rule, there won't be an actual cone but instead a spot on the racetrack that will be marked where the drivers will make their selection on where they want to start from. Personally, I think this is a great way to decipher who starts where and I think it will add a lot of interesting strategy to the race. In fact, we see this on all of the short tracks around the country.

Last week, rookie Cole Custer shook the racing world by capturing his first win at Kentucky speedway. In the closing laps, the California native made one of the best passes of the year. On the front-straightaway coming to get the white flag, Custer made a four-wide pass on his teammate Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Blaney. After this he never looked back en route to his first career cup series win making him the first rookie to win a race since 2016 when Chris Buescher did it at Pocono. This young driver had incredible success during his time in the Xfinity series, but this year it seemed like it was taking him a bit more time to adjust to the cup series, so it comes as a surprise that he is the first of the three rookies to win. This sets him up for both the playoffs and Wednesday's All-Star race. It will be fun to watch how he develops during the rest of 2020 and what he can do in the playoffs.

As we all know this race comes with a very different set of circumstances so there will be more predictions for who I think will win come Wednesday. To start off, in the opening race, there will be three drivers that will advance on stages and the drivers I have winning are Clint Bowyer, Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell. All three are usually pretty fast here, so they will be the ones that I watch the closest. The fourth driver that will advance via the fan vote will be Matt DiBenedetto. As everyone knows, Matty D has built up a great following and has really been running well this year. I wouldn't put it past him to go out and win one of the segments either. I look for all four of those cars to be in the All-star race.

The driver that I have winning the main event is Jimmie Johnson. With everything that has been going on this year, the 7-time champion has especially been affected. It is truly a shame that the greatest NASCAR driver of all-time isn't getting the send-off he deserves but come Wednesday, I think he will finally get his moment. Overall, while in the past Jimmie hasn't had his best results here, this track has been really good to him. Since 2017, JJ has an average finish of eighth including a third place finish here in May. I look for him to finally swing his momentum forward and claim the $1,000,000 prize and claim his fifth All-Star race victory.

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After a rough, disheartening loss the night before to even the series at one game apiece, the Astros tried to shake it off and regroup for a win on Thursday to get the series win against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Here is a quick recap of the finale:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 5, Astros 4.

Record: 6-6, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (0-1, 40.50 ERA).

Bielak tosses an impressive start as Houston puts him in winning position

After both teams finished the first three innings scoreless, the Astros were able to get a little bit of good luck on their side, unlike the night prior. Jose Altuve started the inning with a much-needed single, stole second, then moved to third on a groundout for the second out. That set up Yuli Gurriel, who hit a ball down the third-base line that would strike the bag and bounce away from Arizona, allowing Altuve to score and put Houston up 1-0.

Though he likely would have preferred more run support, Brandon Bielak made do with that one run in his first career MLB start. He was able to complete five innings of work, holding Arizona scoreless over that span despite allowing a runner in each inning. He left in line for the win, with a final line of 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 0 HR.

Altuve extends the lead, then Diamondbacks go ahead

Jose Altuve helped double the lead in the top of the sixth, connecting for a one-out solo home run to make it 2-0. With Bielak's night over at five innings, Cy Sneed took over in the bottom of the sixth and allowed back-to-back one-out doubles to cut Houston's lead in half. He allowed a single to put runners on the corners before Dusty Baker would move on to another reliever to try and preserve the lead. Blake Taylor would enter but allowed the tying RBI-single to take Bielak out of winning position. Taylor would go on to allow a go-ahead run before getting out of the jam.

In the bottom of the seventh, Taylor was still on the mound but would only get two outs before another call to the pen. Andre Scrubb would enter and get the final out of the inning. In the top of the eighth, Jose Altuve would improve to 3-for-4 on the night with a two-out double, setting up Alex Bregman for a go-ahead two-run home run to make it 4-3, Houston.

Ryan Pressly allows the walk-off

Scrubb went back to the mound in the bottom of the eighth and was able to record a 1-2-3 inning to move the game to the ninth. After a scoreless top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly would attempt to get the save in the bottom of the inning. Instead, he would allow the walk-off, loading the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles before a two-RBI single to give Arizona the win and the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will travel to Oakland to kick off a three-game weekend series with the A's on Friday at 8:10 PM Central. The A's will send Chris Bassitt (1-0, 0.93 ERA) to the mound while Houston will turn to Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00 ERA) to help cut down Oakland's division lead.

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