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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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