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).

 

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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