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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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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