NASCAR turns back the clock for their annual Southern 500 at Darlington Speedway

It's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway

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This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the track they call "Too Tough To tame" in Darlington, South Carolina. Considered one of NASCAR's landmark race tracks, this track is rich with history as it was built back in 1950 and of the many changes this sport has seen, this track has stood the test of time through it all. A win here would truly be a huge victory for any driver as this track is arguably the most difficult to get around as danger lurks in every corner. Over the many years this track has existed, many drivers have found the wall and collected their "Darlington stripe." Hitting the wall here comes as a sort of a right of passage. Driving around the outside at this track is nearly impossible considering how narrow the grove is around the wall and only a select few can manage it. When the dust settles, more than likely the cleanest looking car will go to victory lane.

One of the many things that makes this race so special is the tradition that comes along with it. Back when this track was incorporated into the schedule in 1950, NASCAR made sure that it always fell on Labor Day weekend and for many years, this was one of the most popular races in motor sports. Fans from all around the country flocked in one by one to watch their heroes try and tame the track that could not be tamed. Over the years, they watched some of the best finishes in history. This tradition would continue all the way up until 2004 when NASCAR announced they would switch around the schedule and put the Labor Day race at Auto Club Speedway in California of all places and as you would think, this was one of the most unpopular decisions made in the sports history.

It wasn't till 2015, that NASCAR finally decided to return the iconic race to its original date. When the announcement was made, nearly all the teams decided to celebrate by running nostalgic paint schemes. This has really been a neat way for the sport not only to pay tribute to its past but also a nice way to drum up more conversation about who has the best or worst paint scheme for this race. Most of the drivers really went all out this year in their efforts, William Byron being the best example. This year, Byron will be running the paint scheme made famous by Cole Trickle in Days Of Thunder. Overall, the car looks nearly identical to the green and yellow city Chevrolet seen in the film, the only difference being the car number. For most, watching this race will be a trip down memory lane considering a lot of these paint schemes are all that us fans watched as we grew up, it should be a great time picking out each driver and remembering who drove that car before them.

The driver I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. Stop me if you have heard this before but Kyle Larson has yet to win a points-paying race this season and as close as he has been, you would think that he would at least rattled off a few this season. It always seems as if there is one thing that comes up and costs them a chance to win. Last Season here, Larson led a race high 284 laps and swept both stages but due to an ill handling car and a bad pitstop, he had to settle for a disappointing third place finish. This year, I expect it to be different. As rocky as it has been at times for him, he has always been a threat to win and on Sunday, I think he will finish what he started last season and pick up his first win of the season and finally assure his spot in the playoffs. He will be piloting a paint scheme that resembles Ricky Craven's 1995-1996 kodiak livery. As most NASCAR fans know, Craven claimed his second career victory at Darlington back in 2003 so Larson and company are hoping that paying tribute to him will bring this team good luck come sunday, not that I think he will need it though considering he has led over four hundred laps in the past two darlington races. Look for Kyle Larson to take the checkered flag.

(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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Houston needs a win to advance

ALWC Game 2 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

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It took all nine innings, but the Astros rallied late and took Game 1 by a score of 4-1 and are in the driver's seat in this best-of-three series. They'll return to Target Field, home of the Twins, on Wednesday afternoon to try and get the win and advance to the ALDS. Here's what you need to know about Game 2:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, 12:08 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ESPN 2

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Jose Urquidy+ vs. José Berríos.

Series: HOU leads 1-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Astros 4, Twins 1 Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Urquidy+ vs. Berríos
Game 3* Thu 10/1, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis McCullers Jr.+ vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Houston's offense has to get going earlier

The Twins' error in the ninth inning in Game 1 was a gift for the Astros that they were able to take advantage of and score the winning runs. It's unlikely to be handed another chance like that in the postseason, so in Game 2, it's paramount that Houston creates their own opportunities at the plate.

The good news is, every batter in the lineup was able to reach base in the first game, either by hit or walk. However, they would go 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving nine on base during the game. Because they can't expect to have two pitchers to combine for a one-run game on Wednesday, they will have to carry over the momentum from the end of Game 1 into Game 2 to build a lead their bullpen can carry.

Trust your arms to navigate through

Whether it's Jose Urquidy, who is the likely candidate, or anyone else who ends up starting Wednesday's game, the Astros have to be prepared to have a longer stretch of innings filled by their bullpen. Despite his struggles to end the regular season, Greinke did well only to allow one run to the Twins over his four innings in Game 1.

You should expect a similar outcome in Game 2, where hopefully your starter can hold the Twins at bay for as long as they can before needing to make the change to relievers. It will be interesting to see how Dusty Baker plays that situation, mostly dependent on the score at the time, as he could have someone like Cristian Javier come in for multiple innings. The only thing the Astros shouldn't do is fire too many of their bullets and put their chances in a potential Game 3 at risk.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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