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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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