THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: AAA 500 At Dover preview

Chase Elliot should be in the mix this weekend. Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Dover Delaware for the AAA 500. Last week at Talladega, Joey Logano was able to capture his first win of the season after he was able to hold off Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott. From the beginning of the day to the end, it was clear that Logano was the car to beat. Overall, Logano led a race high 70 laps and was able to obtain 58 points from each stage. With this victory, he gets his first win since Richmond last year.

This weekend, we head for the “Monster Mile” at Dover International Speedway for the AAA 500: Drive For Autism. This track is a 1-mile oval with 24 degrees of banking. One of the many things that makes this race track unique is its concrete surface, Dover is one of three other tracks including Bristol and Martinsville that uses this surface as opposed to the regular asphalt we see at the remaining 23 other tracks. While it is not the only track that uses this surface, it is by far the longest of the three in length which means the speeds here are far greater than they are at Martinsville and Bristol and that is what makes this race track so tough for drivers to master.

One of The biggest challenges here is getting through traffic. Here at Dover, there is a stark contrast between the banking in the corners and the banking in the straightaways; the corners are 24 degrees as the straightaways are nine degrees. Passing in the straightaways here is much more difficult at Dover than it is anywhere else and catching lapped traffic at the wrong time can really cost a driver a chance at winning.

Take last year’s fall race here, for example. In the closing laps Chase Elliott appeared to be en route to his first career victory but in the final stages, Elliott caught the lapped car of Ryan Newman. For many laps, Chase tried and tried to get around him he even tried to let Newman drive away from him for a while but once he caught back up to him, Newman would not budge. After all the time it took for Elliott to finally get around him, Kyle Busch was able to run him down and steal the victory away from Elliot, as he passed him with two laps remaining to claim the win. Look for lapped traffic to play a big role in sunday’s race.

The favorite going into this race is Elliott. As I mentioned earlier in the article, Elliott was two laps away from victory here last year in the fall, and this is easily been his best race track. While Elliot and his team always seem to have a car that is capable of winning, they either can’t catch a break in traffic or they just aren’t the best car there but nonetheless Elliott has almost been flawless here. Of his four starts, he never has finished outside of the top-five and has an average finish of 3.3. If the third year driver can run a perfect race from start to finish and can get through traffic at the right time, then I see no reason why he can’t finally get that first win here on Sunday. Look for the Napa Camaro to be a serious contender to win this weekend.

My Dark Horse pick for this week is Daniel Suarez. The Sophomore driver got two of his 12 top 10 finishes here at Dover, finishing sixth in the spring and eighth in the fall. To say that Dover is his best race track so early in his career is a bit of a stretch but his results speak for themselves. Not only has he runn well here in the Cup series but also in the NASCAR Xfinity series as well, where he owns an average finish of 8.17 including a fourth place effort in his debut in 2015.  I Look for Suarez and his team to be up near the front as they try to get their season back on the right track.

My winner this weekend is Jimmie Johnson. If you follow the sport, it is no secret that it has been a rough beginning to the season for the seven-time champion. He is currently 14th in points and only has one top five so far but this weekend, I think Jimmie gets out of his slump and what better place to do it at than at a track he has won at 11 times. No one in NASCAR HISTORY Is better than Jimmie Johnson. If there is any track where Jimmie can get his first win of the season it has to be here for sure. Look for the Lowe's Chevrolet to take the checkered flag this sunday at Dover.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

 

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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