After a long winter, the time has finally come for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season to kick off, and there’s no better place to do it than at Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500. This is far and away the most important and prestigious race on the schedule, if you win the Daytona 500 you become immortalized. Even some of the greatest NASCAR drivers in history haven’t been able to win this race, just proving how difficult it is to win here. This will certainly be appointment television come Sunday.
The big story aside from the race itself is this brand new racecar. With as many supply chain issues that have been plaguing the United States, there has been a major degree of difficulty getting a lot of new parts for these cars, so a lot of teams are coming to Daytona with no backup car. Another major obstacle is that NASCAR is limiting teams to only seven cars. While this doesn’t sound like enough cars, it is important to note that teams can use one car for each racetrack unlike years past when they had to have a designated car for each type of racetrack. This new era of NASCAR appears to be heading more spec than what we are used to seeing and while each car isn’t exactly the same, this is a much more level playing field than we are used to seeing and everyone is starting from scratch.
Another interesting storyline this year is a few of the new teams on the grid. Legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather has thrown his hat in the ring with his new race team, “The Money Team Racing.” For now, their goal was to make the Daytona 500 (which they did) and then make select starts throughout the season with Kaz Grala behind the wheel. I look forward to seeing their progress. Xfinity series regulars Kaulig racing will also make their debut with two cars as well, with Justin Haley piloting the #31 Camaro full-time and a trio of Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, and AJ Allmendinger driving the second entry. This is a team that has a lot of talent and can really hit the ground running this year. They also benefit from running a part-time schedule last season as well. This team will be one to watch for.
After sweeping both duels on Thursday, it would appear that Jack Roush and his team are going to be the two cars to beat. When it was announced that Brad Keselowski would be purchasing a 50 percent ownership stake in the team, many wondered how this could improve a team that had been struggling over the past decade and despite a poor showing at the LA Coliseum. It would appear that this move has worked wonders. We all know Brad Keselowski is one of the top drivers in NASCAR but after watching the dwindling performance of the team, many were wondering if Brad was making a mistake. But after showing signs of speed in practice, it would appear that the 2012 Champion has proven his doubters wrong for the moment. Look for Keselowski to be a contender for the 500.
The driver I am picking to win though is Alex Bowman. Going into qualifying, the Hendrick Chevrolets were insanely fast sweeping the first four positions. They had a bit of trouble in the Duels though, struggling to keep up with the Fords. All that doesn’t really make a difference considering how this is simply a qualifying race. When it’s all on the line, I am sure they will be right back where they left off last year and Bowman will be at the front of the line. Alex has had a lot of fast race cars on these super speedways but always seems to get caught up in the big wreck. If he can stay out of trouble, I think he will take the checkered flag first on Sunday.
Luka Doncic had 41 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and the Dallas Mavericks prevented the Houston Rockets from advancing to the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament with a 121-115 victory on Tuesday night.
Kyrie Irving added 22 of his 27 points in the second half for the Mavericks, who had already been eliminated. Their victory allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to win Group B in the Western Conference with a 3-1 record.
Doncic fell just short of his 59th career triple-double. That would have tied him for ninth place all-time with Larry Bird. He shot 15 of 29, 3 of 10 on 3-pointers.
“Sometimes we take him for granted, and we shouldn’t,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s about winning, but it just so happens he’s a walking triple-double.
”The Mavericks, who trailed by nine points in the third quarter, grabbed the lead for good at 99-98 with 6:25 to play on a drive by Irving. Leading 103-100 with 5:25 left, they went on an 8-2 run that included three free throws by Derrick Jones Jr. when he was fouled by Dillon Brooks on a 25-footer with the shot clock about to expire.
Jabari Smith Jr.’s 3-pointer with 8 seconds left pulled the Rockets within 119-115 before Dallas closed it out.
Doncic played after sustaining a low-grade sprain of his left thumb on his non-shooting hand early in Saturday’s game. He wore a wrap on the thumb.
Doncic made a hook shot from the free throw line after recovering a loose ball near the baseline.
“I’m 2 for 2 in my career on the hooks,” Doncic said, saying the other came while playing for the Slovenian national team against Sweden.
Irving shot 2 for 11 in the first half, 1 for 5 on 3-pointers, with no free-throw attempts. He was 6 for 11 in the second half, hitting 1 of 2 behind the arc, and sank all nine free throws.
“I told the team, ‘Played well enough to win, not smart enough to win,’” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We were extra-aggressive, especially at the end of the third quarter. Had multiple players make a few dumb fouls, put Kyrie at the line and got him going when he didn’t have a lot going. You can be aggressive, obviously, but slapping somebody on a 3-point shot on the arm is an unintelligent play. It has nothing to do with aggression.”
Alperen Sengun had a season-best 31 points for the Rockets, who had six scorers in double figures. Fred VanVleet had 10 points and 12 assists.
The Rockets have lost all six of their road games this season. They went into play leading the NBA by allowing an average of 104.4 points per game.
The Mavericks didn’t use the specially built court for either of their home tournament games, citing dissatisfaction with the quality.
Rockets: Will finish a back-to-back at Denver on Wednesday.
Mavericks: Host Memphis on Friday.