THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR AAA Texas 500 preview

This could be the week for Chase Elliot. Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the Lone Star State for the AAA Texas 500. This is the second race in NASCAR’s semi-final round of eight. This track has gone through many changes over the past few years including a new surface and higher banking around the corners. The new configuration was difficult to maneuver the last time we came here as there were three multi-car accidents including a seven car pile-up involving the likes of Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson. One of the catalysts of these wrecks were tire failures. This new configuration has been tough on tires and this week we should expect a similar issue considering the chances of cold weather.

Last week, Joey Logano bullied his way into the championship race and took the checkered flag at Martinsville for his second victory of 2018. On the final lap, Martin Truex Jr made what appeared to be the winning pass on Logano. In the final corner, Logano gave  Truex  the “Chrome Horn,” propelling him to victory.

Over the course of this week Logano’s decision to move Truex was met by harsh criticism by both fans and drivers alike. Over the course of his 10-year career, (wow do I feel old saying that) Logano has built up the reputation of being a driver who does whatever it takes to get to victory lane. In 2012, he ran over Mark Martin to claim his second victory at Pocono and most notably was involved in a fued with veteran Matt Kenseth in 2015 that arguably cost him the championship. It is clear that Joey is not the most popular driver in the garage but with everything he has done, there have been many others all throughout NASCAR’s history who have done exactly what he has done including the sport's most famous icon Dale Earnhardt.

So what is it that causes this disdain? I am led to believe it was his upbringing. Growing up, Logano did not come from the humble beginnings that most NASCAR fans can relate to, with his dad owning a sanitation business, Logano never had to worry about not being able to make it to the racetrack. This kind of “Rich kid” image does not set well folks and they believe that someone who “works harder” deserves to be where he is. In 2013 after an altercation at Auto Club raceway, racing legend Tony Stewart said “He’s nothing but a little rich kid who’s never worked for anything.” While for some, it is easy to make this assumption because they wanted to have the resources that Logano had growing up but I personally believe that it is ignorant to claim Logano has not “worked to get to where he is.” This is a man who has dedicated his whole LIFE to racing. While normal seven year olds where playing video games, Logano was at a Dirt Track in a Quarter Midget sprint car every weekend. Clearly, Logano is talented enough to be where he is considering this is the third time he will be racing for a championship at Homestead.

The one thing fans can take away from Martinsville was how entertaining the race was. All throughout the race, there were tons of battles for position and lots of banging and clanging like we usually see when we come to a track such as Martinsville. This race has sparked a debate amongst the NASCAR community about the possibility of adding more short tracks to the schedule. When asked about this, driver Denny Hamlin stated “NASCAR could be this exciting every week if we raced at  more short tracks.” In a sense, I can agree with Denny, going to shorter tracks like Martinsville every week would bring the sport back to a time when it was popular but in my opinion, over saturating the schedule with short tracks will not make things better. Now while I do believe that the sport would greatly benefit from a schedule overhaul, I think that there should be more of a variety of types of tracks, maybe there can be more road courses such as Road America or Mid-Ohio that can be added when NASCAR finally tweaks the  schedule. Only time will tell what is next for the sport but if there is one positive of this week, everything appears to be on the right path for the future.

The driver that I have going to victory lane this Sunday is Chase Elliott. Coming into this round Elliott was in the midst of a hot streak - in  the three races in the round of 12, he won two. Many experts and fans had him pegged as a championship favorite. Coming into Martinsville, he was considered the favorite to win there as well. Throughout the race, he was around the top 10 and was able to capture a respectable seventh place finish, but because of the sheer amount of wins and points the big three of Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were able to rack up during the season, he is now on the outside looking in and with a spot already filled after Logano went on to win, one would believe that he is in a must win situation to get back into the final four at Homestead and what better place than to do it at one of the tracks he has performed well at. Since the beginning of his career in 2016, Elliott has finished outside of the top 10 once and has a best finish of fourth his rookie season. Mile and a half tracks like Texas have been where he has the most success and I look for this to be no different. Look for Elliott to claim his fourth win of the season and clinch a spot in the championship race.

(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).

 

The Monster Energy Cup Series makes its annual trip to New England for the Foxtrot Hotel and Casino 301

NASCAR heads for New Hampshire

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for New Hampshire for the Foxwoods Casino 301. This track is fairly enigmatic as it's considered a one mile oval but races like a short track. As we saw in this race last season with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, this track is no stranger to beating and banging. One characteristic about it that makes it so unique is its banking or lack thereof. Overall, the corners are as flat as they come so it's difficult to find the best line around the racetrack. It should be interesting come Sunday.

Last week Kurt Busch was able to fend off his younger brother Kyle in one of the best battles in NASCAR history. In the closing stages, it looked like Joey Logano was on his way to his third win of the season but with six laps to go, the caution came out after Darrell Wallace Jr spun in turn two. This caution would set up for a green/white/checkered restart and it was one for the ages. When the race resumed, Kyle, Kurt and Erik Jones all battled for the lead but when the dust settled, it came down to both Busch Brothers and Kurt was able to prevail. This was Kurt's first victory for his new team at Chip Ganassi racing and also the first victory for the #1 car since 2013 when Jamie McMurray won at Talladega. It was great to see both brothers get to race heads up for the win. This is not the first time both of these drivers have finished 1-2, this year at Bristol the roles were reversed as Kyle was able to take the victory. As we have moved past half-way It has been a great season for the 2004 Champion and he should be one of the drivers to watch as the regular season starts to wind down. While Kurt and his team were celebrating the thrill of victory, Joey Logano and his team experienced the agony of defeat. In the closing stages, Joey appeared to have the fastest car on the track. He was able to catch and then pass Kyle Busch for the lead and was driving away from everyone but as we all know, this is NASCAR and it's never over till it's over. On the final restart, he fell all the way back to seventh. This just goes to show that you never really know what to expect when it comes to this sport and that's what everyone loves when they tune in to watch.

Even after last week's festivities, Kyle Busch remains the favorite to win this week. Over the course of his career, Kyle has won here three times. This is a track that he figured out fairly quickly considering he won here in his second full-time season back in 2006. It is a track that is somewhat similar to the bull-ring he raced on when he was in the beginning of his racing career so it has seemed to translate over into his Cup efforts here, he should be fast he as always. Look for Kyle to bounce back from last week's heartbreak.

The driver that I have winning this week is Aric Almirola. While this may come as a surprise to some, Aric has really started to consistently run well. Aside from his teammate Kevin Harvick, he has the best average finish amongst the Stewart-Haas racing drivers at 13.53. While on the surface it might not look all that impressive, he continues to run around the top five week in and week out and one thing that doesn't get talked about as much is how great he was here last year. In the final 45 laps, he appeared to be in a great spot as he was leading and driving away until a caution came out and swayed his momentum. This year, I think it will be much different and I can see him having a breakthrough race and getting to victory lane and get the first win of the season for Stewart-Haas. Look for Aric and the #10 Ford to go to victory lane.


(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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